We are but at the earliest dawn of the Millennium of the Spirit


Religion and Women's Liberation
Hindu women suffer largely because of religious dogma

Religion has been the guiding force behind many of the acts that people carry out. Ask an orthodox Hindu woman about the significance of her acts and she will point to the codes of her religion without haste.

"You must not touch the male members in the family during periods," my grandmother and mother often warn me. Their reasoning has its basis in the religious belief that women are impure during that time. My reluctance wouldn't work here because they are rigid in their beliefs.

It was after I wrote an article about honor killings in Islam and the provision cited for it in the religious text that I became fascinated by the portrayal of women in religion. Also, because studies have revealed that most acts like honor killings are not in accordance with religious ethics.

Lately I have concentrated on Hinduism because Hindu women, like Islamic women, have been suffering largely because of religious dogma. Women, though the counterpart of males, are portrayed as the slave. The term"Impurity"Is synonymous with female. Women are impure several times during menstruation and even after childbirth.

"The religion that suppresses us must be called a vice, there is no point of virtue," says Susmita, a female high school student."What wrong have we done to God?"

Like Susmita, many blame religious beliefs for creating favorable ground for discrimination. But there is a clear contradiction also because Hinduism worships the goddess with utmost respect. Rather, say major gods in this particular religion are female. It is even claimed that Hinduism has the longest, continuous history of goddess worship. Female divinities like Laxmi, Saraswati and Kali are worshipped as mother goddesses.

But this triumph of the divine feminine has caused no notable difference for suffering women. Goddess worship in general has not have gifted females with greater authority and independence. Even some of the ways in which Hindus relate women to the goddess are rather unfair.

Sita, who is taken as an example of the devoted wife (of lord Rama), is worshipped for her sacrifice for her husband. Bur lord Ram made her take the fire test to prove her purity as she was abducted by Ravana. Suspecting her purity, Lord Ram exiled her while she was pregnant and made her bring up their sons in the jungle. To this day, a loyal and self-sacrificing wife is compared to Sita. Likewise, the goddess Laxmi is always portrayed as massaging the feet of lord Vishnu. In every Hindu household, wives and mothers are referred to as the Laxmi of the house, as Laxmi is the devoted wife as well as the goddess of fortune.

In religious texts like Swasthani, women are portrayed as self-sacrificing and submissive for the sake of their husbands. They are exposed as fasting for months to get the husband they desire. Parvati worships and fasts for a month to get Shiva as a husband.

Twenty-year-old Aruna was in fasting for more than a month. The fasting is called"Swasthani brat."There is a popular saying that the fasting is for the well-being of the husband and for unmarried ones. It is said that they can get the husband they desire. For women in Hinduism, the husband, or pati, is the spiritual lord.

In an essay in a book titled _Is the Goddess a Feminist: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses_, Rita Das Gupta points out that the Smriti literature that is the foundation of Hindu codes of conduct recognized Stri Dharma as the proper duty of the women. Stri Dharma stipulates that the focus of a women's entire religious devotion should be her husband.

Most of the female divinities are portrayed as wives of the gods, but their significance has been overshadowed with various interpretations to undermine their sovereignty. The tradition of Shakti worship has dominated Hinduism. Shakti is the female divinity who represents the power of her divine male counterpart. In her essay, Gupta says that though in Devi Mahatmya, or the glorification of the goddess, the female is portrayed as absolute, and various concepts of feminine principles combine with the notion of ultimate reality to create a great goddess who is the power inherent in creation and dissolution. This is not stressed in any Shakta tradition [!!!] [really???], and interpreted from the male point of view.

But an ignored fact is that Hinduism stresses the balance between Shiva and Shakti. Shiva, a male here, has to be accompanied by Shakti, a female. The two beings are so inseparable that they fuse together to create Ardhanareshowr, who takes on a half-male and half-female form and is considered most powerful. We celebrate many festivals praising the Shaktis, like Kali. In mythology, when the gods couldn't defeat the demon called Maishashur, they worshipped the goddess Durga, who manifested as the destroyer Kali and killed it, saving the gods.

Interpretations of religious texts have always been from a male point of view because throughout religious history they have been in power—similar to the notion that the winners write the history. Women are always denied self- determination. Who knows if the goddess Laxmi sits at the feet of lord Vishnu. Whoever drew the sketch must have been a male; or, the truth could have been altered. None of the religious texts is the truth; they are fictions produced and reproduced many times as per the convenience of those in power, or those who sought power. To liberate women from male-dominated tradition, we need to reinterpret everything. The liberation of women is a huge challenge as religious misconceptions of vice are deep rooted in society as a whole.

Religion and Women's Liberation
Smita Poudel
OhMy News, Korea

Further reading:
Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition by David Kinsley.

Victory to The Mother: The Hindu Goddess of Northwest India in Myth, Ritual and Symbol by Kathleen M. Erndl.

Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses edited by Alf Hiltebeitel and Kathleen M. Erndl.

Religion and Women's Liberation
Hindu women suffer largely because of religious dogma

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Dear devotees of the Adi Shakti,

Namaskar: I bow to the Divine Mother that resides in you.

i just want to comment on the last paragraph:

"Interpretations of religious texts have always been from a male point of view because throughout religious history they have been in power—similar to the notion that the winners write the history.

This is true and that is cause of the low status of women in Hinduism and Islam. But i have heard Muslim men making comments that left me shaking my head. In one documentary a guy from North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan shot his wife dead just because she was seen talking with another male relative. He spent six months in prison and fined some cows by the panchayat (male dominated village committee). His regret ..... losing his cows instead of the 'nimal' he shot dead.

"Women are always denied self-determination. Who knows if the goddess Laxmi sits at the feet of lord Vishnu. Whoever drew the sketch must have been a male; or, the truth could have been altered."

i know that the Goddess Laxmi does not sit at the feet of lord Vishnu but besides Him as an equal partner, His Shakti. That is true for all the deities, barring none. Yes, those who make Her subservient to lord Vishnu must be obviously males.

"None of the religious texts is the truth; they are fictions produced and reproduced many times as per the convenience of those in power, or those who sought power."

This is a false statement. It is the scriptural truth of the Divine Feminine that has been misinterpreted by those in power. That is why we do not hear of the Adi Shakti (Holy Spirit, Ruh, Aykaa Mayee) who is the active aspect and power of God Almighty in creation, sustenance and destruction. It is this Divine Feminine/Mother/Shakti within humans who grants Self-realization and liberation to all. The Primordial Mother is again in ascendancy and revealing Her Ultimate Reality. All the followers of the 'patriarchal religions' will only be able to resurrect/liberate/evolve themselves into the eternal spirit at Her Feet. The male guardians of these patriarchal religious regimes are not going to welcome the Matriarch of All, unless they want liberation. It is actually a simple way to compel those in power to submit themselves unconditionally to Her, and start respecting the feminine half of humanity.

We are but at the earliest dawn of the Millennium of the Spirit and holding Her Truth in the palm of our hands. The Truth is that the same Divine Feminine pervades all the Holy Scriptures and religions. It is going to take time for it to enter human consciousness ............... but the promise of moksa (liberation/release from mundane earthly existence) can accelerate the process.

Jai Shri Ganapathy,

jagbir





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