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I said that the twice-born must perform Sandhyaa Vandan with the well-being of women and other Jaati in mind. I also explained why all Sanskaar are not prescribed for the fourth Varn. Now we must consider the question of women, why they do not have such rituals and Sanskaar.
Even though we perform the Punya Vachan and Naam Karn of newly born girls and celebrate their first birthday, we do not conduct their Chaulaa and Upanayan, nor the other Sanskaar or vows laid down for Brahmchaare. Of course, they have the marriage Sanskaar. But in other rites, like sacrifices, the main part is that of the husband, though she (the wife) has to be by his side. In Upaasanaa alone, a woman has a part in making oblations in the sacred fire.
Why is it so?
What reason did I mention for the fourth
Varn not having to perform many of the Sanskaar?
"Swa-karmanaa tam abhyarchya siddhim vindati maanavah", so says the Geetaa.
Just as society is divided according to occupations and the Sanskaar are correspondingly different, so too there are differences between men and women in domestic life. Running a household means different types of work, cooking, keeping the house clean, bringing up the children, etc. By nature women can do these chores better than men. If they also take an active part in rituals, what will happen to such work? Each by serving her husband and by looking after her household becomes inwardly pure.
In truth there is no disparity between men and women, nor are women discriminated against as present-day reformers allege, nor are they downgraded to men, but they are just different. Work is divided for the proper maintenance not only of the home but the nation on the whole; and care has been taken not to have any duplication. There is no intention of lowering the status of any section in this division of labor.
The body, in the case of certain people, is meant to preserve the Mantra and there are Sanskaar which have the purpose of making it worthy of the same. Why should the same rituals be prescribed for those who do not have such tasks to carry out?
If glassware is to be sent by railway parcel, it has to be specially taken care of since it is fragile. Even greater care is taken in dispatching kerosene or gas. If the same precautions are not taken in transporting other goods, for example iron goods, does it mean that they are poorly thought of? Astronauts are kept in isolation before being sent up in space and after their return. In the same way Mantra have their own radiation that is even more powerful than what is found in space. If you appreciate this fact, you will understand why Braahman are separated from the rest and special Sanskaar are prescribed for them. The body of a Braahman (male) is involved in the nurturing of Mantra. So from the time of conception itself it is to be made pure through Sanskaar like Punsavan, Seemant and so on. There are Sanskaar with the same objective also after the boy child is born.
The vocations have to be properly divided for the welfare of the mankind. If everybody paid attention to this fact, instead of talking of rights, it would be realized that the Shaastra have not discriminated against women or any of the Jaati.
Upanayan for Girls
If Brahmacharya prepares boys or young men to
live according to Dharm, what about girls?
Men marry after their Upanayan Sanskaar and student-bachelorhood. Now for women marriage itself is Upanayan. Just as a boy dedicates himself to his Guru, a girl must dedicate herself to her husband from her childhood until the start of their conjugal life and beyond. The Manu Ssmriti says: "Streenaam upanayanam-sthaane vivaaham Manurabraveet" (Manu says that for women marriage is in place of Upanayan).
If you ask for an external sign of this like sacred thread worn by the men, we may at once point to the married woman's Mangal Sootra etc. "Upanayan" means "taking near", taking a boy near his Guru for his Brahmacharya Aashram. A woman's Guru is her husband. Being joined to him in wedlock is her Upanayan.
According to the Shaastra, a boy's Upanayan must be performed when he is seven years old, in the same way a girl should also be married around at the same age. If a boy is to be initiated into Brahmcharya before his mind is disturbed by Kaam, a girl is also to be married before she feels the carnal urge. She must also accept her husband as her Guru.
According to Shaastra, the Guru must be looked upon as Eeshwar. In the same way a child bride must think of her husband as both Guru and Eeshwar and dedicate herself whole-heartedly to him. She will be able adopt such an attitude only when she is married very young. Later she might start to reason about things, ask questions and develop egoistic feelings. Laying oneself at the feet of the Guru or Eeshwar -- in short surrender -- is the best means of liberating oneself. This concept of surrender is proclaimed in the Karm Shlok of the Geetaa, surrender to Eeshwar, Guru or husband: once you surrender to an individual or deity you no longer own any thing. Eeshwar will give you his grace through the one to whom you surrender. According to the system devised by sages, a boy is made to surrender to his Guru at the time of his Upanayan ceremony, while a girl does the same to her husband at the time of her marriage.
By doing this it is not that the girl is considered inferior and asked to surrender to a man, that is her husband. The boy too is asked to surrender as a child to the Guru. It is the view of the Shaastra that the age at which the girl is married and surrenders to her husband must be the same as that at which the boy surrenders to the Guru.
Talking of the husband and the wife, the question whether the one is superior to the other or inferior is also of no consequence. Equally unimportant is the question of rights and status. If this is realized, surrender will be seen to be of the utmost importance. We must appreciate the fact that it is in keeping with this view that the concept of Upanayan has taken shape in the case of boy's and marriage in the case of girls.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 8/9/09
Updated on 04/12/12