Author(s): Hari Priya Pathak / Language(s): English
Publication Year: 0
Religion plays a significant role in structuring and maintaining a society by enforcing certain morals and norms. Like any other religion, Hinduism has guided the Hindus to live in a particular way since time immemorial. India is predominantly a Hindu society and Hinduism has had a huge impact on the structure, function and culture of Indian societies. Ancient Hindu scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads show profound respect for the feminine principle. It is the Supreme Being, from who all emanate. A woman is a Goddess to be worshipped. During ancient times, the condition of women was in conformity with the religion and they enjoyed freedom, equality and liberty in all spheres of life. However, subsequently, the emergence of texts like the Epics, Smritis, Sastras, vernacular writings and oral traditions, redefined an ideal woman and led to the practices where women were subservient to men. This dissonance and conflict between religious beliefs and practices has strengthened in present times, and has witnessed a steep rise in the number of crimes against women. Increasing domestic violence, sexual violation, female feticide, dowry deaths, declining ratio of women and men and the taboos (arising from having a female body, such as, menstruation) are causing not only distress but also widespread criticism and revolt among women and society at large. Despite the Indian Constitution rejecting any kind of discrimination against women and deeming it unlawful, these inhuman atrocities against women are on the rise. More than ever, there is a need to take refuge in the religion (early Vedic period), not to be too staunch, but to be flexible, democratic and liberal in our outlook with dynamic times and ever shifting contexts. This paper proposes to study (with particular reference to India), the religious beliefs in Hinduism concerning women, and the gradual discord between the beliefs and practices leading to discrimination against women in many spheres today.