Hinduism is the world’s oldest and largest religion after Christianity and Islam which began in Indus Valley (India) in 1500 B.C. Hinduism is not only a religion, but also the way of life. Today, around 750 million people follow Hinduism, and most of them live in India. Indus people believe in supreme God called Brahman and aspects of supreme God: Shiva, Shakti and Ganesh. Women in Hinduism like women in all other religions do not have equal rights with men and have many restrictions. Hindu women are considered characteristics of manifestation of Shakti, a universal mother, as untainted energy. Also, Hindu women have to obey all laws and restrictions in order to be counted as prosperous women called “Lakshmi”. Hindus women rights are written in law books: “Dharma-Sastras” and “Laws of Manu” books. This paper will analyze the positive and negative sides of Hindu women’s way of life starting from their childhood till the widow times and mention differences and similarities between past and present.
Firstly, at the fathers’ home, Hindu girls have duties starting from their childhood, such as learning religious and non-religious poems (Mahabharata- epic poems of ancient India), cooking, washing, and cleaning. They are taught that women should only take care of their parents and siblings, then children and husband, and worship religious rituals. In the past and still in some areas in India, after girls reach 14 years, fathers agree to the marriage of their daughters, and there is a superstition that if daughters are not married after 14 yeas, she will bring grief to their parents. Mostly candidates for husbands are middle aged, which is a disaster to allow daughter to marry to the man who is older for several years. Analyzing this, it is wrong because girls have not reached 18 years to have a legal marriage, and their bodies have not developed yet. Moreover, girls and their husbands have different views on lifestyle which may be a major barrier for happy relationships. In addition, there is a dowry problem (property). In the 18th century, girls faced the gender discrimination about inheriting the property not only in fathers’ house which means depriving property rights from girls while all children should inherit father’s property equally not respectfully if it is boy or girl. But, in ancient India, women did not face such problem, and in Manusmriti, it was mentioned that all women have to be treated equally as men about the property issues (Traditional Status of Women in Hinduism).
Secondly, after getting married, Hindu women play important role in their family rising and bearing children, obeying husband, continuing family traditions, and worshipping religious rituals. Women have to listen their husbands, but it should be a respect rather than obedience, because when there is a respect between partners, their family spirits are on a high level. However sometimes, when Hindu wives disobey their husbands, men start to use a violence towards their wives which is completely wrong and in Hindu Law book also mentioned that there should not be any harassments towards wives. Also, wives should keep families’ traditions and obey them because Hindu people believe that tradition is the main bond which allows family name (as every family has own traditions) to pass through decades. Hindu women rise children and educate them at home giving a basic knowledge about science and religion which is a positive aspect because children become aware of useful and basic spheres from early ages. However, except from all home duties, women should have liberty to develop themselves too, participate in different activities, and be involve in political and economic spheres because by being developed they will be able to educate and up-bring their children in depth (Women’s Role in Hinduism).
Thirdly, Widows’ lives in Hinduism are considered as the hardest period. When husbands die, wives shave their hair and become bald till the end of their lives, then wear a white sari (Indian outfit), and they are not allowed to wear colorful saries. After that women’s lives change and become very hard for them because they have many restrictions, such as being bald, wearing only white saries, participation on weddings and some rituals are prohibited, and main restriction is remarriage. Moreover, public judge widows and do not let them to have a piece; therefore, usually widows stay under surveillance of sons or close relatives. If analyze these restrictions, they are just rules which make women’s lives worse. To have a restriction on remarriage is meaningless because as a tradition many of Hindu women get married at early ages, and when wives lose their husbands their, lives destroy at young age, especially if they have children, while they can remarry, continue raise their children (if any) with support of second husband, engage different celebrations, wearing colorful dresses and jewelry, having long beautiful hair, and have a happy life. Shortly, remarriage is a key for women for escaping from people’s judgements.
However, some traditions have changed in modern and developed parts of India. For example, now girls do not get married immediately as they reached 14 years, and they can choose to whom marry, they are allowed to go to schools and get education, are involved in high positioned job (yet there is a discrimination because men are afraid that women will take their places and dominate over them), widows are allowed to remarry prosperity equally divided between brothers and sisters as Hindu law claims. These changes simplify women’s lives a lot.
In conclusion, Hindu women play an important role in their families at fathers’ and husbands’ houses. There are positive aspects of being a Hindu woman because from childhood they are taught to take care of their family, do housework, and worship religious rituals. The crucial part of sustaining a family is a women’s duties as they bear and educate children, take care of them and husbands, and are responsible for continuation of family traditions. However, there are several negative aspects such as getting married at early age, undergoing gender discrimination in terms of having education, job, and inheriting prosperity. The difficult part of being women is when they get married at so early age and when they become widows. Although nowadays some of these traditions have changed, many people who follow Hinduism still keep these traditions and make women suffer.