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Sthree Dharma
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->‘<b>Hinduism forced chastity on women’ </b>Chennai, Sept. 29: Dalit Panthers of India leader Thol Thirumavalavan believes that “chastity is a concept imposed on society by Hinduism,” but he respects the sentiments of women and supports their protest against actress Khushboo’s remarks on sex and women. Khushboo had stirred up a controversy in Tamil Nadu with her remarks to the Tamil edition of India Today that there was nothing wrong with pre-marital sex provided women took care to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. She later apologised for the remarks.

Members of the DPI have since demonstrated against Khusbhoo. But Mr Thirumavalan does not seem to share his party’s views on the subject. “I feel that like casteism and male chauvinism, chastity is a concept imposed on society by Hinduism. But when a protest erupted spontaneously in response to Khushboo’s remarks, as a feminist I had to defer to the women’s wing. This does not mean that I have diluted my ideology,” he told this newspaper.

Explaining that the agitation against Khushboo was not organised by the party leadership, Mr Thirumavalavan said that he had tried to control the situation. “The protest was confined to Chennai and Madurai. If the party leadership had instigated it, it would have spread across the state,” he said and added that the media, which had never bothered about the DPI and the issues it raised, “blew the Khushboo episode out of proportion.” He said that he had urged his partymen to give up the agitation.

“We have so many important issues before us. But the media created the impression that we are obsessed with Khushboo,” he said and denied that the DPI had targeted Khushboo because she had forced director Thangar Bachan to apologise for his remarks against actresses. Asked whether he agreed with Khushboo’s opinion, Mr Thirumavalavan replied, “Her opinion has nothing to do with women’s liberation. She has only advised women to take precautions against pregnancy and disease while indulging in sex,” he said.

Mr Thirumavalavan said <b>chastity had taken root as a “virtue” among Tamil women and it was not easy to eradicate it overnight. “We cannot ignore it completely since chastity is seen as a mutual trust between the husband and wife. It is common even in western society. But there is no point in imposing it on women alone,” </b>he said and quoted national poet Subramania Bharathi who said, “if chastity is to be insisted on, it should be common for both men and women.” <b>Mr Thirumavalavan said his party would organise a workshop in the state to discuss “gender psychology” to educate women about the “alternative ideas on sex.</b>”<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<b>Women in the Hindu Renaissance.</b>

Hinduism has always eternally eulogized the femine aspects of creation and contains many female forms of the Divine like Goddesses Kali, Durga,Lakshmi ,Saraswati,Ambika and Uma.Worship of the divine and the Motherhood of God is a unique feature of Hinduism. Motherly traits such as tenderness, selfless and unconditional love, forgiveness, gentleness and kindness are attributed to the Divine Mother who is the very first manifestation of Divine Energy. Hindu Women are uplifted and empowered as the very shanty (omnipotence,omnipresence,divine manifestation) of the universe and enshrined as the consorts and co-creators of the entire cosmos (birth, maintenance and destruction) endowed with sublime virtues such as purity and austerity.

This rich pantheon of Hindu Goddesses provided inspiration ,instruction and solid historical precedent to legions of great Hindu women in the timeless annals of ancient and modern Hindu history. These Goddesses are not to be relegated dismissively to a mythical role but revered and accorded a sacred place as positive living embodiments and potent, endearing and enduring symbols hewn from Hinduisms perennial cultural and spiritual matrix which has given birth to great legends and heroines .

Hindu Queens such as Ahilya Holkar (1705-35) ,Rani of Jhansi, Durgavati and Keladai Chennamma were single-handedly entrusted with complex affairs statecraft due to death of spouses and hapless circumstance by male peers and kings. At times these women were shunned and belied despite their own sorrowful situations. Even though they had to maintain their duties of motherhood, homemaker and respective family roles and duties they initiated public welfare programs and dispensed alms and charity to the poor and observed strict religious faith despite orchestrating complex matters of state which were traditionally relegated to men of their day like collection of revenue and related army management demonstrating abilities far beyond their years to raise and organize armies, deploy weapons ,study enemy strategies and geopolitical manoeuvres,invoke victories and by virtue of their supreme courage and capabilities command and win the erstwhile flagging loyalties of their soldiers,advisors and commanders and defeat powerful and cunning enemies despite lack of strategic support, betrayals and demoralizing lack of faith in their womanly capabilities to uphold the honor of their respective states and kingdoms under siege by British,Moghul and other kingdoms.

Despite being commanders-in-chief these venerable Hindu Queens maintained exemplary dignity and grace pursuing their interests in art and literature. Patriotism was their lifeblood and many of these noblewomen stated that it was preferable to die with honor protecting their people and country form ravaging hoards rather than to live enslaved.

Hindu women such as Kasturba Gandhi and Madame Kama were a few amongst great Hindu women who plunged themselves into the freedom struggle.Kasturba’s single-minded dedication and sacrifice to her husbands principles knew no bounds even adopting a Harijan child and raising her like her own which was very unorthodox for her day. Madame Kama the fiery patriot electrified audiences in Germany where she publically and proudly unfurled the Indian tricolor designed by Veer Savarkar at the International Assembly in1907 beseeching foreign audiences with her impassioned plea for succor and support for the cause of liberation of her people who had and continued to be robbed and enslaved by their cruel ruthless oppressive British masters for centuries.

These positions and precedents of the high place of honor accorded Hindu women in history in all fields of politics,warfare,art ,science, religion and literature contrast greatly to the biased so-called modern western feminist theories on the place of women in ‘third world’ reduced to a distorted depictions the ‘all-powerful’ Hindu male chauvinist ceded cultural ‘sanction’ to dominate the ‘powerless’ female.

<b>Author Veena T. Oldenburg in her seminal research “Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime. Dowry Murder’ dispels this generalized misinformation which has been consciously fed to western and Indian readers and audiences for years relatively unchallenged.</b> Gloomy portraits of dowry murder,inter and intra –caste oppression, female infanticide, sati and child marriage are keenly depicted in mainstream international publications, films.

It is due to the often unexamined motives of those writers whose acerbic denigration of Hindu women place in society are posited as established facts. It is a fact that very many of the so-called evil consequences of Hinduism were malicious inventions of the British imperialists and their apologists who were recruited stem the tide of anti-imperialism influence international and domestic opinion
that the colonial presence in India was essential as a Christian ‘civilizing’ mission render them incapable of ever ruling themselves.

Oldenburg testifies and corroborates the fact that the Imperialist reanthropolgized, reengineered and restructured a male dominated social ethos by introducing alien concepts of land and property acts that disproportionately discriminated against women divesting her of her status and power within the socio-economic family structure which had benefited her and provided her with security and protection for centuries.

In ordor to effectively remedy these layers of misconceptions It is essential that Hindu women organize and awareness at a personal and societal level through studied, sincere and involved research and contribution of articles and scholarship to academic forums,womens’s professional groups and guilds and media in to this little explored area which is taking on gigantic proportions in the constant gender conflicts which have been exacerbated by this confusion and lack of awareness into the spurious and specious motives and intentions of those who benefit economically and politically from engendering fissures in Hindu society in order to prevent harmony and progress and propagation of our Hindu Dharma.

Now that Hindu women are relocated in greater numbers in the western context and many are first generation born there will be a natural growth and evolution and transference of these newly discovered and revealed qualities towards independence, virtue and self esteem which will be a very important and vital role in establishing an identity and redefining our higher potential and objectives.Independance allows for inward and outward expansion in a very positive and constructive manner if we now take stock of who we really are and gain an absolute sense of mission, purpose and direction.
<b>'India terminated 10 mn daughters in 20 years'</b>
cross post
Women in Hindu Dharma
By Vishal Agarwal

<!--QuoteBegin-Sushmita+Jan 21 2006, 04:22 PM-->QUOTE(Sushmita @ Jan 21 2006, 04:22 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Acharya,
Before accepting the inventions of ambedkarite.org (this should be the actual name, they'd wrongly named their site after Ambedkar who they often misquote; they also tend not to present all his opinions nor any of them wholly), here's another article on sati which also quotes historic personages who witnessed the event.

Excerpted from a translation of Koenraad Elst's article "Sati en andere zelfdoding" (Sati and other suicide). I suppose the article was meant for Belgian and Dutch people, as Elst himself had provided no English translation on his site or elsewhere. The translator is uncredited in the article I'd saved.

<b>Excerpt #1 of 3</b>
<!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><span style='color:purple'>Origin</span>
People sometimes say that widow-burning was brought into India in a later migration from Central-Asia, that of the Shakas or Scythians, in the middle or end of the first millenium B.C. These Scythian tribes are then supposed to have been the ancestors of the martial Rajput caste in Rajasthan, the caste to which Rup Kanwar and the most famous satis belonged. This seems to me an attempt to push away from oneself a difficult to defend custom. Of the Scythians, it is indeed known that they sent widows to their death with their husband, as well as servants and horses with their master – whether burnt with them or buried with them. From archaeological excavations in Southern-Russia it appears that widows were already climbing the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands in the fourth millennium before our chronology, in the so-called Kurgan-culture, an apparantly proto-Scythian and definitely Indo-European culture.

<i>[The connection with India should however not be sought in the Scythian invasion of the 1st century B.C., but in the much older common Indo-European roots, because the custom also occurred among the Celtic and Germanic people. So we hear in the Edda, in the book Sigurdarkvida, that Brunhilde stabs herself after the death of Siegfried in order to be buried with him; in addition she first has her slaves killed and she also invites free servants to voluntarily die with her. So she doesn’t climb the funeral pyre, but nevertheless follows her husband into death. Also among the Celts did this custom occur in large scale. Great power and wisdom are ascribed to a woman about to commit sati, which is why for e.g. Brunhilde predicts the future at the last moment for next of kin.
Bernard Sergent (Les Indo-Européens, Payot, 1995, p.223), observes a connection between sati and the status of a woman. In spite of feminist claims that this custom once again proves the male contempt for woman, it in fact occurred the least in those Indo-European societies where the woman was most disparaged in both practice as well as mythology, like the Greek {society}. A woman who does not have much honour to maintain, won’t accompany one to the pyre; it’s precisely the proud and relatively free/liberated/emancipated Celtic and Germanic women who did this.]</i>

In India, besides the Rajputs, the martial Marathas and Sikhs also knew this custom, though to a lesser extent. Other castes did not know this practice at all or specifically disapproved of it, in particular the brahmans (although they too practised sati in British-Bengal, in particular after the modernisation of the law of succession). In most duty-prescribing books (400 B.C. to 200 A.D?), among others of Manu and Yajnavalkya, there is no mention of widow-burning at all. Only the Vishnu-dharma-shastra gives the widow the choice between celibacy and self-immolation.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Elst wrote the article in 1994 and added parts to it (like the section in italics above) in or after September 2000. It therefore does not take into account the results of recent genetics research which shows that neither Rajputs nor any other Kshatriya tribe comes from outside of India but are in fact just indigenous. Even though we've had an influx of Shakas (Iranian-speaking people*), they've just dissolved into the country's population and don't appear to have been so significant in number as to have left much of their imprint either genetically, culturally or otherwise.

*See http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/reviews/sergent.html which states <!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->every testimony we have of the Scythians, including the Haumavarga ones in whose sites traces of the Soma ceremony have been found, is as an Iranian-speaking people.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-Sushmita+Jan 21 2006, 04:32 PM-->QUOTE(Sushmita @ Jan 21 2006, 04:32 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Excerpt #2 of 3</b>
<!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><span style='color:purple'>Suicide, not murder</span>
That in principle it’s about self-immolation and not murder, is apparent from many British testimonies. For that matter, these are in agreement that this practice only occurred among a few higher castes. They keep stressing that those present continually tried to make the woman give up on her resolve, and that there wasn’t a single stigma associated with forsaking this resolution, unless it only happened after the ceremony had started (what might perhaps have been the case with Rup Kanwar).

In Bengal at the start of the 19th century, several cases have been mentioned where the sati was under pressure by the in-laws. A part of the cause was the British reforms of the law of succession, which suddenly made it of interest for the in-laws to not be left with a surviving daughter-in-law. This was therefore an aberration, partly induced by the colonisation, of the general practice where sati was completely voluntary. For that matter, it’s significant that such women did not become the object of worship, as opposed to the many non-suspect sati-women in Rajasthan.

The mentions of sati in mythological, judicial and historical texts of the hindus, are without exception concerned with voluntary self-immolation. The name actually cames from Sati, the beloved of Sjiva, who sets herself on fire in protest against the unjust treatment of her lover by her father, this story therefore has noting to do with widow-burning. It is quite possible that this might be a later-constructed myth to explain the name, and that the practice of sati is much older. Sati actually means “good” or “loyal [woman]”, from <i>sat/sant</i>, “true, good”. The most famous mention is that of Madri, the favourite wife of Pandu, the father of the five Pandavas from the Mahabharata-epic: she climbed Pandu’s pyre, while the other wife, Kunti, declined the honour. The Greek author Diodorus Siculus tells how in 316 B.C. the Indian commander of a hired-army in Iran is killed, upon which his two spouses argue about the privilege of becoming the sati.

From the middle-ages countless examples are known. The Arabian writer Albiruni writes that widows were treated badly and that’s why they chose self-immolation. Marco Polo, on the other hand, states that they did this “out of love for their husband”. A special case is the <i>jauhar</i>, the collective sati of Rajput-women when a city besieged by Muslims no longer had a chance to be saved: the men did a prospectless sally in order to die heroically, and the women were kept out of the hands of the enemy by the fire-death. Much more recent examples are the voluntary immolation of Sjivaji’s wife Putalabai (1680), of Madhavarao Pesjwa’s wife Ramabai, and of the wifes of Ranjit Singh, maharaja of the Sikh-realm, in 1839.

Of more import for the biased westerner is rather, that also the not-to-be-suspected British shared the opinion that the widows involved carried out their sati voluntarily. Before the British rule banned this practice in 1829 on Lord Bentinck’s initiative, it had a report drawn up with the significant title: “The Report on Hindu Widows and <i>Voluntary </i>Immolations”. H.T. Colebrooke, H.H. Wilson, Jonathan Duncan and other British authorities advised against a legal ban on sati, because this ritual does not occur under duress/coercion. A few citations from the in this report collected assessments, and also from other British testimonies, deserve to be heard.

Lord Mountstuart Elphinstone wrote in his <i>History of India</i>: “On occasion it has been said that the relatives encourage the widow to immolate herself to obtain her possessions… People can however be sure that the relatives usually beg the widow not go through with it, and to this end also call in the intervention of friends and figures of authority. If she is of high rank, even the monarch will come to console her and to advise her against it.”

Lieutenant-colonel John Briggs in a letter stated: “Whoever has witnessed the self-immolation of hindu widows, and of their attitude/bearing towards this as I have seen them, will find it hard to free themselves of the idea that these devoted women have reached the highest grade of faith. The justness of the law that robs them of their only religious solace… is therefore at the very least doubtful.” When Lord Bentinck in 1829 issued the ban on sati, it was under rather general opposition from his (British) subordinates.

Lord Holwel, lieutenant-governor of Bengal, wrote: “If we viewed these women in the correct light, then we would think more openly about them, and admit that they act out of heroic as well as rational and pious principles”.

As evidence for the involuntary nature of sati, people constantly refer to the mention of a forced immolation in F. Bernier’s <i>Travels in the Moghul Empire</i>, a travel-report from the pre-colonial time. Pointing to this professor Prabha Dixit said, short after the self-immolation of Rup Kanwar, that “sati is never a voluntary deed” and “always took place under brutal pressure/coercion”. Well, the same Bernier, who stayed in India from 1656 to 1668, writes in the same book: “Mostly it was the practice that sati was carried out voluntarily.”

He mentions several voluntary self-immolations, and gives among others this description: “when I left Surat for Persia, I witnessed the devotion and fire-death of another widow. Several English and Dutch {people} were present. The woman was middle-aged and not at all ugly. With my limited ability for expression, I do not expect to convey a complete idea of the brash courage or fear-inducing liveliness on the woman’s countenance, of her sure tread, of her freedom from all disturbance, with which she spoke and let herself be washed, of the look of trust or rather carelessness/insensibilty that she gave us; of her easy air, free of doubt, of her distinguished bearing, without any embarrassment, when she searched her seating place, which consisted of thick dry milletstraw mixed with small wood, and when she went to sit on the pyre, placed the head of her deceased husband on her lap, took a torch, and with her own hands set it on fire from the inside…”

Contemporaries of Bernier, like Nicholas Withington, William Hawkins, Edward Terry and others, have left behind a few more eye-witness accounts, and they confirm that it practically always concerned voluntary self-immolation.

General Sleeman described in his <i>Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official </i>(1844) the self-immolation of the widow of a rich landlord: “Towards the family I must show the correctness to mention that all family members exerted themselves to make her give up on her resolve. If she had remained living, she would certainly have been loved and honoured as the most important woman of the house. Because there is no people in the world among whom the parents are more honoured than the hindus, and the grandmother always even more than the mother.”
<!--QuoteBegin-Sushmita+Jan 21 2006, 04:42 PM-->QUOTE(Sushmita @ Jan 21 2006, 04:42 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Excerpt #3 of 3</b>
<!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><span style='color:purple'>Right to suicide</span>
That the British forbade the practice of sati was not a measure against murder, but against suicide. As was known, suicide is forbidden in Christianity; in some countries there was even the death penalty for attempts at suicide. In India however, people have always judged it differently.
Another legitimate ground for suicide in the hindu-tradition is quite universal: just like a minister resigns as a consequence of his political responsibility in some scandal or another, in the same way people can take their lives to thus clean up their own guilt in a catastrophic development. In this way, king Jayapala of Kabul took his own life in 1001 when he had not been capable of protecting his people against the muslim-invaders. He made a pyre, climbed it and set fire to it himself.

<span style='color:purple'>Judgement of sati</span>
Around 1800, about thirty years before the British administrator Lord Bentinck issued a ban on sati in Bengal, the hindu governments in some princely states had already issued orders to discourage sati, in particular the Maratha government in Sawantwadi and the Brahman government in Pune. With this, they concretised the anti-sati policy of the Maratha-queen Ahalyabai who passed away in 1795. Even within the hindu tradition there has been, at least since Medhatithi’s commentary on the Manu-Smriti (900 A.D.?), always a stream that rejected sati. The sjaktic or tantric stream was very explicit in this. The Mahanirvanatantra says: “The woman who in her delusion climbs the pyre of her husband, shall go to hell.” (This sentence itself has however made the philologists suspect that this text was written or was completed around 1800, when sati had become a hot point of discussion.)
The reason for rejecting the sati is mainly that a woman, in the middle of the crisis which her husband’s passing after all represents, hardly has a day’s time to think over such a grave decision. A monk who on his old day decides to refuse food, has had a whole life of developing a stance of equanimity and non-attachment. His decision does not happen hastily or under emotional pressure.
It is completely logical that sati was not general practice on one hand, and yet on the other was still completely accepted in the case of the martial castes, especially the Rajputs. With the lower castes, a widow could in every respect remarry, among the brahmans continuing to live on alone as a female ascetic conformed with the ascetic caste-ethos, but with the martial castes it was passion and heroism that counted as pre-eminently honourable. That sati was considered as the appointed way for some and not for others, conformed with the hindu-pluralism, that posits that everyone has their own duty or code of honour (swadharma), corresponding to the their own talent/ability (swabhava).
Even without blowing new life into sati as a practice, people can from within the modern culture bring up a more honest recognition of the historic truth about sati ....
Note: in Dutch, there is no "sh" except in words of foreign origin that have entered the language. This appears to be why Shiva etc. has been phonetically spelled with "Sj" in the original article - for the benefit of the (Dutch) readers. The translator seems not to have corrected this in the translation. Or perhaps he is unaware of how Shiva is written in English.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Dear Rani,

1. The search for a scriptural foundation for sati must have started
as soon as the British toleration policy was in place. This started in
the last decade of the 18th century. The first documents in English by
Hindu authors addressing this issue date from the first decades of the
nineteenth century (as far as I am aware). The debate whether or not
sati was part of the Hindu religion had started a few decades earlier
between the orientalists Holwell, Dow and Halhed. John Zephaniah
Holwell had claimed in the 1760s that the Brahmins had given sati "the
stamp of religion," "foisted it" into the Vedas and "established it as
a religious tenet throughout Indostan." Alexander Dow, on the
contrary, had argued that the "extraordinary custom of the women
burning themselves with their deceased husbands" was never "reckoned a
religious duty, as has been very erroneously supposed in the West."
In response to Dow's claim, Halhed had ridiculed it and stated that
Suttee was most certainly a religious duty of Hindu widows.

2. Whence this fixation on attesting that sati was sanctioned by the
`sacred laws of the Hindu religion'? This was not directly related to
the problem of the secular state. To make sense of it, we have to turn
back to certain assumptions of the Reformation. All human souls,
according to Christianity, had been imparted with a sense of God's
eternal Law. They lived on earth to obey this Law. But this sense had
everywhere been corrupted by the devil and his priests, who now
imposed their own fabrications as divinely revealed commandments on
innocent believers. To these believers, the British assumed, such
fabricated laws consistuted the core of sacred religion and one's
everyday duty towards the Creator and Sovereign of the universe.
Therefore, in order to understand such people and go about with them,
one first had to find out what they believed to be God's Law. Which
specific set of laws did the Hindus mistake for God's revelation of
his eternal Law? And was sati part of that set of laws? *This* was the
obsession of the early colonial scholars.

3. When the Hindus adopted this obsession to establish that sati was
indeed sanctioned by their scriptures in the early nineteenth century,
they transformed their traditions into a religious doctrine. They
unwittingly accepted the Christian stance towards traditional
practices: these embodied beliefs, which were fixed in the sacred
texts. No, this did not require from them an understanding of what
religion was. As I said, the colonial state compelled them to adopt
the stance of Christianity: in order to survive, they had to defend
their traditions as sacred doctrines.

4. It is funny that you should ask this question about the way the
Indians imitated the British colonials. In fact, our claims are very
different from Homi Bhabha's story about mimicry as resistance. How
they are so will be explained in the near future by Balu in a note
about colonial consciousness, which will be uploaded in the
files-section of the yahoo-group.


I believe Veena Oldenburg has taken anti-Hindu stances elsewhere. I think she signed the anti-IDRF petition. Many of these "Subaltern studies" people like V. Oldenburg try to bring to shift the blame to the British while whitewashing the Musslims. The Muslim rulers used to take desirable women away to their harems in North India. There is a statement that Akbar turned Delhi into a brothel. Sati became a big deal amongst the Rajputs because they feared being raped by Muslims who were invading their country. Sati definitely existed even before the Muslims in India, but then it was there in Europe too because it is something going back to the Indo-European period.

When we first returned to India in late 1980s a young Rajput woman committed Sati. This immediately provided a chance for the Americans and their friends to anthropologize on the Indians. Sati is made a big deal off because the Americans want to make a business out of it by taking it up as a project for study and blowing it out of proportion.

The western women often want to save us from our repression. I would tell I am not repressed thank you, may be it is your mind.
<img src='http://specials.rediff.com/news/2006/jan/25rsld4.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />
<b>Women in Sri Vaishnavam</b>

By V. Sadagopan

Tiny URL : http://tinyurl.com/op2sd
From Deccan Chronicle, 18 April 2006
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Ancient women had right to stridhana
By Flavia Agnes

A fortnight ago I discussed women’s right to property and the recent amendment to the Hindu Succession Act (Half an heir, April 4). <b>Persisting with the same theme, this essay dwells upon women’s right to property under ancient Hindu law.</b>

It is generally believed that ancient Hindu law was particularly harsh towards women and denied them sexual and economic freedom. In support of this premise, it is emphasised that Manu, the arch lawgiver, stipulated, “A woman must be dependent upon her father in childhood, upon her husband in youth and upon her sons in old age. She should never be free.”

It is also believed that the modernity ushered in during the colonial era helped to loosen out this strict sexual control by granting women the right of property ownership. <b>But rather curiously, very few people are aware that Manu is the first lawgiver who laid down comprehensive principles concerning women’s separate property, approximately 2,000 years prior to the English legal system accepting this principle, and issued a warning, “Friends or relations of a woman, who, out of folly or avarice, live upon the property belonging to her, or the wicked ones who deprive her of the enjoyment of her own belongings go to hell.” Similarly, Narada’s dictate that the husband must give one-third of his property to the first wife at his second marriage is obscure knowledge.</b>

The Smritis and commentaries, with their roots in a feudal society of agrarian landholdings, prescribed a patriarchal family structure, within which women’s right to property was constrained. <b>Under the Mitakshara law, the property of a Hindu male devolved through survivorship jointly upon four generations of male heirs. The ownership was by birth and not by succession. Upon his birth, the male member acquired the right to property.</b>

Although the male members owned property, this ownership cannot be equated with the modern notion of ownership which essentially confers the right of alienation. The basic characteristic of the joint property was its inalienability. The property could not be easily disposed of by way of sale, gift or will. Hence, the joint ownership of males was more notional than actual.

<b>The property was managed by the head of the family, the karta, for the benefit of the entire family including its female members. So, in effect, until the property was partitioned, the right of male members was essentially the right of maintenance.</b> Even after partition, the property in the hands of each of the coparceners, continued to be joint property, held in trust along with his male progeny for the benefit of the next line of descendants.

Since women did not form part of the coparcenary, they did not have even the notional right of joint ownership, hence they could not demand partition. But women had the right to be maintained from the joint property and this right included the right of residence. Since divorce was not commonly prevalent, after marriage, women could not easily be deprived of their right of residence and maintenance in their husband’s house.

The husband was bound to maintain the wife, despite all her faults, including quarrelsome nature, neglect of household, barrenness and adultery. He could marry again, but he was under the legal obligation to continue to maintain the first wife. In addition, the wife was entitled to “supersession fee” or sulka — an equal share of property which the husband gifted to the new wife.

Women also had the right to claim marriage expenses from the joint property in their natal house. <b>Vishnu, a later smritikar, added four more categories to this enumeration of Manu. The later sages, Yagnavalkya, Katyayana, Narada, Devala etc., widened the concept further. Yagnavalkya (around 2nd century AD) expanded the scope of stridhana by adding the word adhya (“and the rest”) to the enumerations of Manu and Vishnu.</b>

<b>The Katyayana Smriti lays great emphasis on stridhana and discusses the concept elaborately.</b> Katyayana classified the stridhana property as saudayika and asaudayika and explained the concept as follows: What is obtained by a married woman or by a maiden, in the house of her husband or her father, from her brother, husband and parents, is saudayika stridhana.

The saudayika stridhana could include immovable property. He emphasised the exclusive ownership both in terms of sale and gift and laid down, “Neither the husband nor the son, nor the father, nor the brother has authority over stridhana to take it or to give it away.”

This injunction is almost in the nature of a warning to male members to lay their hands off the woman’s property. If the husband borrowed saudayika money, he was under a legal obligation to repay it with interest.  There also seems to have been a usage that property up to the limit of 2,000 panas should be given annually to a married woman by the father, mother, husband, brother or kindred (relatives) for her personal use.

<b>Sir Henry Maine in his Early History of Institutions, while describing the institution of stridhana, comments, “It is certainly remarkable that the institution seems to have been developed among the Hindus at a period relatively much earlier than among the Romans.” </b>But he seemed to be under the erroneous impression that it gradually deteriorated to an insignificant position. There is no historical basis for this premise, if the later commentaries are the indicators.

The Mitakshara (Vijnaneshwara, 11th century AD), the most widely recognised source of Anglo-Hindu law, expanded the scope of the term adhya mentioned by Yagnavalkya and laid that property obtained by a woman through inheritance, purchase, partition, seizure (adverse possession) and finding, is her stridhana. Through this expansion, every category of property was brought under the scope of stridhana and the woman was granted exclusive ownership over it.

As can be observed, a system of property ownership by women seems to have been an integral and significant part of the ancient moral, ethical and legal social norms. Due weight was granted to this subject in Sanskrit scriptures. <b>It does appear that patriarchal collusions constantly undermined the scriptural dictates of the dharma of stridhana. At each time the smritikars, with great effort, brought the emphasis back to women’s ownership of property and in the process also expanded its scope.</b>

<b>There seems to be a constant tussle between the Smriti dictates and patriarchal subversions within the family.</b> The task of the smritikars seems to have been challenging — as can be observed from the comments of Jimutavahana, the author of Dayabhaga, on completion of his chapter on stridhana: “Thus has been explained the most difficult subject of succession to a childless woman’s stridhana.”

The most distinguishing feature of stridhana property was its line of descent. Under Mitakshara, after the woman’s death, it devolved firstly on unmarried daughter, then on married daughter who is not provided for, followed by married daughter who is provided for. Next in line was the daughter’s daughter followed by the daughter’s son. <b>The woman’s own son could inherit it only in the absence of heirs in the female line.</b>

To be concluded

Flavia Agnes is a lawyer with expertise on gender, human rights and minority concerns. She is also the founder of Majlis, a legal advocacy programme for women based in Mumbai

Can someone post the earlier essay of April 4th?
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Can someone post the earlier essay of April 4th? <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
It was not a essay but court judgement on Hindu marriage act.
To: bcjournal@jhubc.it
cc webmaster@indicethos.org
Date: Apr 19, 2006 12:41 PM
Subject: Your paper on Universal Rights and Cultural Relativism: Hinduism and Islam Deconstructed

Your paper on Universal Rights and Cultural Relativism: Hinduism and Islam Deconstructed at http://www.jhubc.it/bcjournal/articles/polisi.cfm, makes many unsubstantiated remarks and states assumptions as facts. For instance, you say and I quote

“Cultural relativist arguments have often been used to justify even the most severe human rights abuses around the world. My objective in this essay is to begin to deconstruct the issue of cultural relativism as it applies to human rights law and show how it is used as a tool for promoting the degradation and marginalization of women in Hindu and Islamic societies. I will briefly highlight human rights violations committed against women in Hindu and Islamic cultures such as physical and verbal abuse, dowry killings, gender-biased laws, forced prostitution, female trafficking, restricted access to education, exclusion from participation in government, unfair court proceedings, and pre-menarche marriage, and argue that these violations have no cultural justification.

Is this an assumption you are making especially when you talk about Hindu women. If it is a fact, you give no statistics for your claims. India is a large country with a billion people, so even if there are a few thousand cases like you describe this is a drop in the bucket from a percentage standpoint and cannot be used to tar the whole community . If it is a assumption you give no basis for your assumptions. Where does it say that the incidence of events you describe is widespread in India and forms a statistically significant phenomenon. It appears you have taken anecdotal incidents and converted them erroneously to a conclusion that such behavior is widespread in India

While reading your article, I was somewhat astonished when you club the status of Hindu women with that of women in Islamic countries. The comparison is so absurd that it defies belief. In fact the material in your paper does not support the title of your paper which is highly misleading. There is simply no comparison nor is there justification to club the status of women in these two cultures in the same category. In fact none of the supporting material you have presented supports the thesis of your article.

1. You have rightly maintained that the status of women in ancient India was not inferior to that of women in other ancient societies and in fact India is one of the few ancient civilizations that elevates the status of women to one of respect, in sharp contrast to the status of women in the Roman civilization or even till recently in Italian society.

2. You show no statistics of abuse of women in contemporary India today. It is not our contention that there is no exploitation of men by women (and even vice versa), but the incidence is miniscule in relation to the size of the population when viewed as a percentage and when compared with abuse of women in western countries and certainly when compared to Islamic societies. Furthermore India is a poor country (this is fast changing as we speak) with about 25% living in poverty and more vulnerable to exploitation by others. This is not to excuse such conduct ,but it is neither gender specific nor is it excessive statistically speaking when compared to other societies which are even more affluent.

3. In contrast in Islam one is allowed to have four wives even today. Mohammad himself took several wives not to mention dozens of concubines. In Islam one is allowed to divorce a wife by saying ‘Talaaq’ three times. I personally feel we should call a spade a spade and that Islam has degraded the status of women when compared to the same societies in pre-Islamic times. A woman’s testimony is worth only half that of a man in Islam. Women cannot drive an automobile in Saudi Arabia which is the custodian of Islam. She cannot stir out of the house without being accompanied by a male. And of course in many Islamic societies she has to wear a full length Burqa covering her from head to foot. At the very least they have to cover their head. None of this is true in Hindu societies,

Pl. reconsider your viewpoint and please do not make sweeping judgments about women in Hindu society.

With regards,
Kosla Vepa

Excellent reply.

Why they don't compare with western women, whom I considered most abused group on earth?
Dear friends,
Does the thread not anticipate the answer to the following questions?
1.What are the traits of an average indian woman today?
2.What are the traits an Indian woman ought to possess in contemporary India?
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Does the thread not anticipate the answer to the following questions?
1.What are the traits of an average indian woman today?
2.What are the traits an Indian woman ought to possess in contemporary India?<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
That's like asking, what are the traits of the average human being. There are too many different, conflicting characteristics to get any idea. And Ought To Possess is prescriptive.

Maybe a better question would be
What are the traits useful for Indian women to have, both for themselves and society as a whole?
I'll be talking of Hindu/Jain/... women to give my own opinion. India has a vast pool of intelligence that, with proper education, can do a lot for the country. The same applies to men, of course.
What I would <i>wish</i> to see in Indian women is a living continuation of who they have always been. Thankfully, this is still there to a large extent, though the murky and non-viable ideologies are trying to erode it. Indian women have been brave and fearless, intelligent and active, with a strong sense of India's historic identity. I would like these traits to be passed on to the next generations. A noble woman is an inspiration to everyone, not just young children, but men as well. And vice versa.
If schooling fails to educate children to engender the good qualities adults of the past had, parents should certainly take up the challenge. This moulding of children has traditionally been done by all members of the family consisting of grandparents, uncles and aunts, etc. So to be sure, they are still most important in forming future generations too.

I think the Freedom-Responsiblity mentioned is excellent and most true. The intelligent people, anywhere in the world, tend to live responsibly because they know what they want in life. And what they don't want. People who are easily influenced (this is especially common among some teenagers) tend to overlook responsibility. And then they turn out not to be useful contributors. This is gender independent, too.

I find that I can't coherently speak of women independent of men. When I try to speak of women, I invariably move towards discussing society as a whole. Asking general questions directed particularly at women which could also be asked of men, is going to lead to answers that apply to men as well.
"Maybe a better question would be
What are the traits useful for Indian women to have, both for themselves and society as a whole?"

Dear Husky,

Phantasy is necessary. But it is all the more necessary to be down to earth.

The equals of men
by Nanditha Krishna

I was recently researching the women of ancient India when I came across a startling piece of information. <b>Seventeen of the seers to whom the hymns of the Rig Veda were revealed were women — rishikas and brahmavadinis. They were Romasa, Lopamudra, Apata, Kadru, Vishvavara, Ghosha, Juhu, Vagambhrini, Paulomi, Jarita, Shraddha-Kamayani, Urvashi, Sharnga, Yami, Indrani, Savitri and Devayani.</b> The Sama Veda mentions another four: Nodha (or Purvarchchika), Akrishtabhasha, Shikatanivavari (or Utararchchika) and Ganpayana. This intrigued me so much that I had to learn more about them, but I drew a blank. Who were these wonderful women who were on par with their men and produced the greatest and longest living literature of the world?

In the Vedic period, female brahmavadinis (students) went through the same rigorous discipline as their male counterparts, the brahmacharis. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad describes a ritual to ensure the birth of a daughter who would become a pandita (scholar). <b>The Vedas say that an educated girl should be married to an equally educated man</b>. Girls underwent the upanayana or thread ceremony, Vedic study and savitri vachana (higher studies). Panini says that women studied the Vedas equally with men. According to the Shrauta and Grihya Sutras, the wife repeated the Vedic mantras equally with their husbands at religious ceremonies. <b>The Purva Mimamsa gave women equal rights with men to perform religious ceremonies. Vedic society was generally monogamous, and women had an equal place. </b>

There are several instances of individual women who sought to educate themselves. Pathyasvasti went North to study and obtain titles. The well-known lady philosopher, brahmavadini Gargi Vachaknavi, was an invitee to the world's first conference on philosophy, convened by King Janaka of Videha, and challenged Yajnavalkya to a public debate. Her acknowledgement of defeat and praise of Yajnavalkya induced the king to gift him 1,000 cows and 10,000 gold pieces, which Yajnavalkya rejected and retired to the forest, followed by his wife Maitreyi, an equally educated and spirited woman.

There were shaktikis or female spear bearers according to Patanjali's Mahabhashya, and women soldiers armed with bows and arrows in the Mauryan army, according to Kautilya's Arthashastra. The Greek Ambassador Megasthenes mentions Chandragupta Maurya's armed female bodyguard. Thus education was not the only vocation for women.

The heroines of the epic period are better known. Sita and Draupadi were highly educated, powerful and determined women. But the debasement of the status of women had begun. Sita had to undergo an Agni pariksha — an ordeal through fire — to prove her purity. In the Uttara Ramayana, a later interpolation that is illustrative of changing mores, she was cast off by her husband to assuage palace gossip. She finally "entered the earth", a euphemism for suicide. In spite of her five husbands, Draupadi was staked and lost in a game of dice, disrobed and publicly humiliated. The men of the Ramayana and Mahabharata had several wives, an indication of the lowering status of women.

Rules of morality were stringent for women, and even the fact that she was deceived could not save Ahalya from her husband's curse. Kannagi, in the Tamil epic Silappadigaram, is married to Kovalan, who abandons her for a dancing girl Madhavi. On losing all his money, he is kicked out by Madhavi. His faithful wife takes him back and they go to Madurai, where he visits the public parks filled with dancing girls and later pawns Kannagi's anklet. When he is falsely accused of theft and executed, Kannagi should have heaved a sigh of relief. Instead, she curses the city to be destroyed by fire. Thus a wonderful city and its inhabitants were destroyed for a useless man. Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, did well to remove Kannagi's statue from Marina Beach in Chennai. She was no role model. Manimekhalai, daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi, was far better. Refusing to become a courtesan, the profession of her birth, she became a nun and Buddhist philosopher. Kannagi is used as a role model to justify polygamy and a patriarchal society, teaching women that suffering and patience is synonymous with goodness.

To escape the growing harshness of society, many women joined the Buddhist and Jaina orders of nuns, which gave them opportunities for social service and public life. Vishakha, Amrapali and Supriya gave the Buddha hospitality and financial support. Uppalavanna became a teacher of younger bhikkunis. There were thirteen theiris among the Buddha's chief disciples, the most famous being Dhammadinna, a teacher of religion, Soma of Rajagriha, the beautiful heiresses Anupama and Sundari, queen Khema, wealthy Sujata, Chapa the chastened wife, Patachara the bereaved mother, Sukka the preacher, and Kisagautami, superintendent of the Jetavana convent. Ajja Chandana was Mahavira's first female disciple, the others being Mallinatha the Mithila princess, Jayanti and Mrigavati of Kaushambi, Sthulabhadra's seven sisters and Yakkini Mahattara. The new faiths gave them a freedom and dignity they missed as wives, mothers, daughters and concubines.

The most interesting women are the panchakanya, five women immortalized for their chastity and purity: Ahalya (wife of sage Gautama), Draupadi, Tara (wife of both Vali and Sugriva), Kunti and Mandodari. Four of these women were forced to marry, or be associated with, more than one man by forces beyond their control. The idea developed that a pure heart was stronger than physical chastity. But the freedom of choice given to the Vedic women had gone. Women had to follow the dictates of their family and society, while men had the freedom to have several wives and concubines.

Creativity came to the rescue for many women, as religion and temple building were their only refuge. Shaiva and Vaishnava saint-poetesses of the early bhakti movement in Tamil Nadu include great women like the Shaivites Avvai, Tilakavati, Mangaiyarkarasi and Karaikkal Ammaiyar, and the Vaishnava mystic Andal. Rajasimha Pallava and his wife Rangapataka jointly built the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram. Sembiyan Mahadevi, widow of Gangaraditya Chola, renovated and built several temples. Kundavai, sister of Rajaraja Chola I, built temples at Rajarajapuram. Lokamahadevi, wife of Vikramaditya II Chalukya of Badami, built the Lokeshwara temple at Pattadakkal. But these were fortunate women who had education, wealth and status. The vast majority were wives and chattels.

<b>Islamic rule in North India saw a sharp decline in the status of women, now relegated to the veil, both as an influence of the new dispensation as well as for their personal protection. Jauhar protected Rajput women from captivity. If women came out of the confines of the home, the new court culture made them either entertainers or chattels, both highly degrading positions. Thousand years of the purdah was to have a highly detrimental effect on women, something from which the northern states have yet to recover. </b>

Religion and creativity, once again, came to the rescue of a few. Lalla, a Kashmiri Shaivite ascetic, preached absolute dependence on divine will and devotion to one's duty. The Rajput princess Meera is the best known, composing beautiful and eternal poetry. All the states of India had great women saint-poetesses, such as Mahadaisa, Muktibai, Janabai, Bahinabai, Venabai and Akkabai of Maharashtra who composed abhangs and kirtans. There were few women rulers: Razia Sultana, Chand Bibi, Rani Chinnammal, Rani Lakshmibai, and perhaps a couple more. But they were left out of civil society and development. We had to wait for the 20th century to achieve that.

<b>So next time we look for role models, let us look carefully and make sure the message they convey is correct. We have to go back 5000 years to find women who fit 21st century hopes and aspirations. </b>

The author can be reached at nankrishna@vsnl.com

http://www.newindpress.com/sunday/colItems...C20030803031539 <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Empowering women ~ DurgaVahini</b>
BHOPAL, June 2: From using swords and guns to staging dharnas and burning effigies ~ the cadres of Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) are being trained at everything here.
The training camp began last week at Saraswati Shishu Mandir, a school run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and will continue throughout this week.
<b>On any day from morning to afternoon, one can see around 200 girls and women in the age group of 15 to 35 years being taught to use swords, knives, guns and basics of different martial arts.</b>

They are also being taught how to successfully enforce shutdowns of markets, burn effigies and block roads.

The aim behind the VHP’s training programme is to make their women cadres more confident, bold and vocal.

<b>The training camp has been named Shaurya Prashikshan, which roughly translated to English would mean bravery training. </b>

“Empowering women is the need of the hour. Today crime against women is on the rise. We want to fill our girls and women with self confidence. So we are imparting training to them,” said Ms Vandana Pandey, the local convener of the VHP.

“<b>Moreover, we want our women cadres to raise their voice against burning issues of the nation. So we are teaching them how to protest the wrong decisions of the government or ruling parties in a successful way,” </b>she said.

“No doubt, our organisation has been named after Goddess Durga, the Goddess of Power. So we want our women to be powerful and such trainings are only the way,” said Ms Pandey.

“After joining this training camp, I have become disciplined and confident. I will attend such camps in the future too,” said 18-year-old Ms Shreya Chauhan, an activist of Durga Vahini.
“I have come to know about the greatness of the ancient Indian culture after joining this camp. This camp has instilled a sense of confidence in me,” said Ms Manorama Singh, another cadre.
“We have experts in Durga Vahini who know how to handle and use firearms and other weapons. At times we take the help of retired soldiers of the army,” said Ms Chuahan.

With the BJP being the ruling party in Madhya Pradesh, the VHP has not taken permission from police for organising the camp which is mandatory as training is being imparted in the use of firearms and other deadly weapons such as swords and knives.
“No permission has been sought from us by the organisation,” said a local police officer on condition of anonymity.
“We have come to know that some girls suffered injuries during mock fights but we are unable to do anything,” he added. A senior police official said he was not aware that such a training camp was being organised.
The VHP at present has plans to impart training to its women cadres in the BJP-ruled states only.

A similar camp was organised in Jaipur from 18 to 25 May. “The next training camp will be organised in Chhattisgarh capital Raipur,” said Ms Pandey.


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