When I say Hindu I also mean Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.
What are Hinduism’s biggest strengths? Why is Hinduism the oldest surviving religion? Why could Hindus endure so big tragedies which no other civilization could?
Below are the reasons:
- Ability to change depending on situation: Mohan Bhagwat(RSS sarsangachalak) says “Change is the unchangeable law of nature”. Whenever Hinduism needed a change some leader came up and induced the change. Starting from Lord Ram (who changed the world order by killing Ravana) to SavitriBai Phule (who popularized education among girls), whenever there was a need, Hindus re-invented themselves. The Gandhis looted the country like hell, Hindus kicked them out and brought in Vajpayee/Modi to stop the great loot.
- Remain open to ideas/criticisms: If you speak against against the Prophet (PBUH) in Pakistan, you will be hanged. Per Zakir Nayak, the Holy Quran says blasphemy is punishable with death. But in Hinduism, we have Buddha who vociferously criticized the Vedas. Hindus made him the 9th Avatar. Charbak propounded a different philosophy, but Hindus did not stone him to death. In the modern era, the west made advancements in technology, we adopted them, and soon India is going to beat the west in their own game.
The same applies to status of women in the society. Let me analyze the status of women in three different ages of history i.e. Ancient (from Vedic ages to the Islamic age), Medieval (from Islamic age till the British) and Modern (from British era till today).
Ancient Era: The status of the Hindu women was the best during this period. How?
- Women received equal opportunities for education in society. The tradition of wearing sacred thread which marks the age of student period, was prevalent among women also.
- Women had lot of mobility in society. During the Maurya and Chola period, they could move across the empire for education and even business. Foreign historians and visitors (for e.g. during Mauryan age) were impressed at the mobility the women enjoyed in India.
- Though Women did not inherit ancestral property, they had rights on husband’s property which gave them security.
- Women wore less clothes. But were safe in the society.
- The respect of women was high as we can see so many Goddesses being worshipped by Hindus.
- Women among the multiple strata in the society could choose their husbands. Since girls and boys married late, arranged marriages were not much prevalent. Arranged marriages became prevalent during the Medieval age when Child marriage became the norm.
Medieval Era: The status of Hindu women actually degenerated during the period. And this was due to the cruel and barbaric Islamic invasion. Hindus were forced to accept many Islamic traditions and continue with them till date. How?
- Women started veiling themselves. We see the veiling more prevalent among North Indian women than South/West Indian women, as North India bore the brunt of the Islamic invasion.
- The dress of women increased. They were forced to cover themselves. But, though the women started covering their bodies increased, their safety reduced.
- Hindus started adopting the male dominated patriarchal joint family system which was never a Hindu tradition. It was an Arabic tribal tradition brought by Muslims. That’s why we see the male dominated joint families mostly in North India, not in other parts of the country. Due to such a distorted joint family system the status of women further degraded.
- The mobility of women reduced, they could not move freely as in Ancient ages.
- Women’s participation in economic activities decreased.
- Child marriages increased as people feared that their daughters could end up in harems. Child marriages also resulted to Arranged Marriages.
- Even polygamy became prevalent, following Islam. In the ancient ages, polygamy was practiced by Kings, not by ordinary people.
Modern Era: In the modern era we saw that status of women increase. Due to pressure from Indian reformers, the British had to do reforms in the Hindu society. Also, in general Hinduism/Christianity give more regards to women than Islam. This explains why British reformed the Hindu/Christian personal laws not the Muslim personal laws. And this is Hindus’ strength, we have ability to auto-correct ourselves if something is not correct.
Few examples below:
- The legal marriageable age of boys and girls were increased.
- Sati was made a criminal offense.
- Widow remarriage was legally allowed.
- Hindu law code bill, 1955 gave Hindu Rights to parents’ property, this is Nehrujis’ biggest contribution to Hindus. By having one single personal law for all Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jainas the Hindus became more united. Though I differ with Nehru on multiple other policies, this is one action which I appreciate.
- Legal provision for maintenance for wife/unmarried daughter/mother/Minor son was put in Hindu law code. This is a biggest security which non-Muslim women have in India.
- Hindu Law Code also made Polygamy and Polyandry a criminal offense.
- Laws for Dowry prohibition were put in place making it a criminal offense.
- Laws were made to prevent domestic violence.
- The Amendment to Hindu Law Code in 2005 gave equal rights to women in ancestral property. Along with equal rights, it asks daughters to do equal duties towards their parents just like a son.
Thinking about the above, I am view that Hindu women are on the right track. Status of women is synonymous with the progress in the society. IT is not a coincidence that when the status of women was high in ancient ages, India produced many scientists, doctors, engineers, poets, philosophers etc. But when the status of women degenerated in middle ages, there were none.
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