Women and vedaas

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Jan 20 00:18:21 CST 1998

On Mon, 19 Jan 1998, Ravi Mayavaram wrote:

> namaskaaram
>  I request the knowledgeable list members to give references for the
> verses in Vedas which prohibit women from learning them.

I belong to Madhyandina shakha of Shukla Yajurveda and one of the parts of
our Veda is the Shatapatha Brahmana.  Maharshi Yagnavalkya saw this work
and taught it to a 100 rshis.  In there, the rules of Vedic study are
given.  It is noted that one who has not had Upanayan sanskara is
ineligible to study the Vedas.  In another section the rules for Upanayan
are given.  First the rules for Brahmans are given.  Second for
Kshatriyas, and third for Vaishyas.  Shudras are not mentioned.  Therefore
the inference is they are not eligible.  Furthermore, all the references
to the person undergoing the ceremony are in the masculine tense.
Therefore we infer that women are not eligble.

In the section on the monthly rites called Darshapaurnamaseshti it is said
that the yajaman should not talk to women or shudras for the duration of
the ceremonies.  In the Katyayana Shrauta Sutra which is the Vedanga which
codifies ritual for this shakha it says the reason for this is because
women and Shudras are unlearned in the Vedas.

> What could be the basis for this prohibition (if at all it is there)?
> Only reasons I can think of are the monthly menstruation cycle and
> pregnancy. These may deter them from observing the aacharam and
> anushTaanam. In fact for the same reason the aiyappan temple at Kerala
> does not allow women in this age group during makara sankaranti to
> follow the 40 days vratam and come to the temple.

Why assume there is any reason?  We are not spending time debating why
married ladies wear a mangal sutra around their necks and men don't.  We
just accept this as womens custom.  In the same way, Vedic learning is
mens.  (And not all of them at that.)  Nothing sinister need be inferred.

> I have a book on sandhya vandanam which states the following
> <begin quote>
> "Though in regard to shuudras and women the sandhya was not prescribed
> in later times due to various social circumstances,

Note that by later times the author means the past couple of _thousand_

> it was permissible  in earlier vedic times.

Given that we know next to nothing about "early Vedic times" even when
exactly they were, this is pure guesswork on the part of the author.

>In shukla yajur veda (XXVI-2) it is urged to
> spread the benificinet words (vaachaam kalyaaniim) of the vedas to all
> people  without distinction of caste, creed or sex, even to people of
> other religions.
> yathaa imaam vaacham kalyaaniiM adadaami (avadaamii) janebhyaH
> brahma raajanyaabhyam shuudraaya cha aaryaaya cha svaaya charaNaaya cha

I looked at three different printed copies of the Vajasaneyi Samhita
(Which I assume is what is meant by Shukla Yajurveda and and this
vers is _not_ 36:2.  In fact there is no mantra beginning Yatha imam
anywhere in this samhita.

> (Just as I am speaking these  blessed words to the people (without
> distinction), in the same way you also spread these words among all
> men and women (janebhyaH includes both men and women)
> -- the brahmanas, kShatriyaas, vaishyaas, shuudraas and all other,
> whether they be your own people or aliens)

Are you sure this not from some Purana?  The Vedas don't have narrators.

> Women also should perform sandhya  as in olden times. As it has been
> said in one of the smritis.
> Puraa kalpe kumaariiNaam maunji bandhanam iihyate
> adhyaapanam cha vedaanam saavitri vachanam tathaa
> (In olden times the upanayanam was performed  for the girls too. They
> were  taught vedas and the gaaytrii mantra (Manusmrit: Prathama
> parishshhTa 13:14)

The "first appendix" to the Manusmrti?  Yeah right.

Who wrote this sandhya book?  They do not seem to be too reliable.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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