Hinduism is the oldest and most rapidly growing religions in today’s society. It’s estimated that over 1.5 billion individuals worldwide are apart of the Hindu religion. It is practiced in countries such as India, Nepal, and Malaysia. Like many other religions, there are rules, rituals, and regulations you must follow. However, these rules are extremely different when it comes to women in the Hindu culture.
From the very beginning, rules were laid out for women in a book called ” The Laws of Manu”. The book was written around 200 C.E and was a way to strip women of their independence. It states how women should act and be treated by their fathers, husbands, brothers, brother-in-laws, and sons. The Laws of Manu states that women must be honored and respected by their male relatives. It also states that women should never be independent. Can you imagine what it is like being a woman who has no independence whatsoever?
There are three phases that all Hindu women go through; childhood, marriage, and motherhood. When growing up, girls are required to be respectful and obedient at all times. Responsibilities such as house work and cooking falls on them so unfortunately girls typically do not receive an education. In 2008, research showed that 62% of girls did not receive the education they need. Thus, many girls are not taught how to function outside of the home.
A girl must have close supervision by her father. Many people believe that girls are to be protected by the father until she’s married . Being raised in countries such as India , Hindu girls have to be extremely more careful than boys for several reasons. For starters, because there aren’t enough girls due to child abortion, many young girls are kidnapped and sold to men as child brides. This can cause stress not only the child but her parents. Secondly, many girls are subjected to rape. Rapes in India go unreported due to the lack of urgency for women and because many are too scared that they will get beaten, raped again, or even killed. To avoid situations such as these Hindu girls are taught to respect themselves by how they dress, act, and associate with the opposite sex.
During the teen years, two important aspects occur in her life. The first aspect is the beginning of her menstrual cycle. Girls are to participate in what is called a “Ritu Kala Samsar Ceremony” This is an Indian Hindu ceremony performed when the girl first wears a sari and gets her first menstrual cycle. A sari is a dress that is typically worn when girls hit puberty or get married. This ceremony symbolizes the young women as now both physically and spiritually mature.
The second important aspect is her virginity. Virginity, is something that is priceless and should be valued. Many Hindu women refer to virginity as “Kanya “.Women must stay a virgin until marriage because this is something that comes with consequences. In many countries such as India, if a women is not a virgin she can be killed. They also believe sex before marriage results in bad karma.
Marriage is an important occasion in the Hindu religion and culture. It symbolizes the union between a man and a women for eternity. It also symbolizes four things that they can pursue together-duty (darma), possessions (artha), physical desires (kama) and spiritual release (moksha). Many women are married young due to arranged marriages. An arranged marriage is determined by the bride or groom’s family. Typically, the individual getting married has little or no say about the marriage.
As a women, this can be frustrating. Most do not meet their husbands until the day of the ceremony. Without being able to meet her husband,the bride doesn’t know what he will be like. On the day of the ceremony, a ritual called mangalfera is performed.This ritual requires the couple to walk around a fire four times. By doing so, this symbolizes the four ashrams of life. Believe it or not, in this religion, fire stands for sustainer of life. Another ritual performed is called saptapadi. Saptapadi is when the couple cite seven vows to bond their marriage.
Once married, she has to immediately leave her family and begin wifely duties. Many Hindu wives get instructions from a book called “Stri Dharma”. In the book, it states that a wife should regard her husband as a God. The term God means an adored, admired, or influential individual.The book also talks about how a wife should serve, follow, and pray for her husband’s well-being. According to the book,a wife shares the same karma and destiny as her husband. Since women aren’t allowed to be independent, the husband must provide for his wife. He must meet all of her needs such as housing, clothing, food, and protection.
As you can see a woman’s role in the Hindu culture is to be a great wife. However, another important role a Hindu woman plays is the role of being a mother. Parenthood is a beautiful and exciting time for any woman. However, in the Indian Hindu culture it can also be a scary time. This is because years ago many women were subjected to abortions if the baby was a girl. If a woman became pregnant but already had a girl, she was typically forced to abort her baby. According to a study conducted in India, it is believed that over 8 million unborn baby girls were aborted during the past ten years.
If the mother chooses to go through with her pregnancy there are many ceremonies that occur. For starters, when baby is born honey is poured on his or her mouth and ears. Honey in Hindu represents sweetness. Many Hindu believers partake in this ritual because they believe it will ensure that the baby will speak and hear only sweet things. Secondly ,the naming of the baby also known as “namkaran” . During the ceremony, a fire is started and the child’s name is selected according to his moon sign. The last but most important ceremony performed is the rice ceremony.
This ceremony symbolizes the introduction between a baby and solid foods. The baby’s first solid food is fed by the elders in the family, typically the child’s grandfather. As the child gets older, mothers must always be caring, loving, and nurturing. Thus, the key roles Hindu women play in society are those of wives and mothers. Hindu women are taught to put other people’s needs above their owns. They lack any type of emotional support system. They typically deal with many of their problems alone, such as rape, arranged marriages, and childbirth, They have no freedom, voice, or outlet.
In conclusion, even though times have changed many Hindu women still follow the culture that has been set out before them by their fellow ancestors. Carrying out the rituals, rules, and regulations is just something that comes along with the Hindu religion. However, I believe in order for the Hindu woman to have the freedom they deserve they must take time out for themselves. It’s okay to be a mom and a wife but it’s also okay to take time for yourself.