Secretary’s Message

Message from the Secretary

Role of Women in the Vedas, and in Modern Times
By Mohini Bhatia
Women are accorded the greatest respect in Vedas. The role of women was paramount in Vedic culture. In Vedas, the bride-to-be, called Kanya, meaning “to illuminate”, has the birth right of choice in obtaining a marriage partner. The partnership of husband and wife and sanskrit terms used by the husband for the wife are 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). In Rig Veda (10.85), the marriage hymn, states that the daughter-in-law should be treated as a queen, sāmrajni, by all the family members especially the mother-in-law, husband, father-in-law. Women are mahaabhaagaah or the source of great fortune, poojaarhaah or worthy to be worshiped, they are the lights, that brighten the whole family atmosphere. Divine power in the form of shakti is considered feminine. There is a Vedic saying, “Where women are worshiped, there the gods dwell.”

During Vedic times, women stood as a force in spirituality and the foundation of moral development. There were women rishis who revealed Vedic knowledge to others. For example, the 126th shlok of the first book of the Rig-Veda was revealed by Romasha, a Vedic woman; the 179th shlok of the same book was by Lopamudra. There are many other examples: Visvavara, Shashvati, Gargi, Maitreyi, Apala, Ghosha, and Aditi who instructed Indra, one of the Devas, in the

higher knowledge of Brahman. During Vedic times, it was taught that every man should view and respect every woman as his mother, and every girl with the same care as his own sister or daughter.Somewhere along the way, through foreign invaders, influences from other religions, pursuit of material things, these teachings were forgotten, and societies began to see a decline in the treatment of women. Arya Samaj, founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in 1875, brought about a change. Observing the decline in the status of women, one of the main principles of Arya Samaj is to remove unjust practices against women in society: Sati, Dowry, Polygamy, Adultery, lack of education, child marriage, degradation of widows amongst others. Arya Samaj promoted the teachings of the Vedas and encourages its followers to go back to Vedic teachings, develop an inquisitive mind, ask questions, have discussions and debate and focus on inner examination and inner improvement as a way to attain spiritual growth. The state of development of a society can be judged from the status a woman occupies in it. The feminine power of shakti in Vedic scriptures, if suppressed, is denied to the family and society, weakening both.

“O bride! May the knowledge of the Vedas be in front of you and behind you, in your center 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.” (AtharvaVeda, 14.1.64)

What role do women play in modern times, today?
Today, more than ever before, we must go back to the Vedic teachings. Men in their role to provide, honor and protect. And women to use strength and determination to encourage the Vedic teachings in our daily lives and the lives of our children and immediate families. Women, even today, decide the social activities and cultural practices followed in most homes. It is our dharma as women to promote on a weekly basis the following of Vedic teachings. For this to happen, we MUST first expose ourselves on a weekly basis to Arya Samaj, and encourage our family and friends to attend events every week. It is our collective responsibility to use our qualities, powers and influence to ensure that our families are strengthened by following Vedic practices in our home. From our families and our homes, we can influence our neighborhoods and communities and from our communities we can influence our countries and strengthen the fabric of society.

“The home has its foundation in the wife”. – The Rig Veda

Role of Arya Samaj in supporting women
The role of Arya Samaj, is therefore, also more important than ever before. While the particular types of injustices against women may have changed, their remains much to be done to re-establish the balance of the masculine and feminine energies in the world today. Women are the primary caretakers of children and elders in every country of the world. If we want our future generations to be forward thinking, morally grounded and able to effectively cope with the modern world, we must carefully invest in their upbringing. To support society in growing in a balanced, productive, and harmonious way, Arya Samaj has a strong role to play in promoting women in positions of leadership, as speakers, as educators and as role models. Can we walk on the path that Maharishi Dayanand showed us and take it further? Can we be the change organization that can strengthen the fabric of society? This would make Arya Samaj as relevant today as it was over 100 years ago.

Annex
Woman in the Vedas designated as:
Aditi, because she is not dependent (Nirukta, 4/22)
Aghnyā, for she is not to be hurt (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Bŗhatī, for she is large hearted (Yajur Veda 11/64)
Chandrā, because she is happy (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Devakāmā, since she is pious. (Atharvar Veda 14/1/47)
Devī, since she is divine (Atharvar Veda 14/1/45, Yajur Veda 4/23)
Dhruvā, for she is firm (Yajur Veda 11/64) ā
Havyā, because she is worthy of invocation (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Idā, for she is worshippable (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Jyotā, because she is illuminating, bright (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Kāmyā, because she is lovable (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Kshamā, for she is tolerant/indulgent /patient (Atharvar Veda 12/1/29)
Mahī, since she is great (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Menā, because she deserves respect (Nirukta 3/21/2)
Nārī, for she is not inimical to anyone (Atharvar Veda 14/1/59)
Purandhih, for she is munificent, liberal (Yajur Veda 22/22)
Rantā, because she is lovely (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Rtāvarī, Rtachit, for she is the preserver / forester of truth (Rig Veda 2/41/18)
Sanjayā, since she is victorious (Rig Veda 10/159/3)
Sarasvatī, since she is scholarly (Yajur Veda 20/84)
Simhī, since she is courageous (Yajur Veda 5/12)
Sivā, for she is benevolent (Atharvar Veda 14/1/64)
Sivatamā, since she is the noblest (Rig Veda 10/85/37)
Strī, since she is modest (Rig Veda 8/33/9, Nirukta 3/21/2)
Subhagā, because she is fortunate (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Subhdhā, for she is knowledgeable (Atharvar Veda 14/2.75)
Sumangalī, since she is auspicious (Atharvar Veda 14/2/26)
Sushevā, for she is pleasant (Atharvar Veda 14/2/26)
Suvarchā, since she is splendid (Atharvar Veda 14/4/47)
Suyamā, since she is self – disciplined. (Atharvar Veda 14/2/18)
Syonā, for she is noble (Atharvar Veda 14/2/27)
Vīriņī, since she is mother of brave sons (Rig Veda 10/86/9, 10)
Vishrutā, since she is learned (Yajur Veda 8/43)
Yashasvatī, for she is glorious (Rig Veda 1.79.1)
Yoşhā, because she is intermingled with man, she is not separate (Nirukta 3/15/1)