Jivanmuktiviveka of Swami Vidyaranya

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Wed Feb 2 08:06:33 CST 2000

On Tue, 1 Feb 2000, Aravind Krishna wrote:

> This clarifies a lot of misnomers on the status of women in your society. In
> south, a female almost looks like a sanyAsi with saffron robes and shaved
> head after her husbands death.

In Gujarat the customs are a little different.  A widow should wear white
clothes only and not wear any jewellery especially mangalsutra and other
marks of a marriage.  My great-aunt (Motafaiba) was widowed in her 20s.
After that she lived with my Grandparents.  Although she didn't spend all
her time on religious pursuits (she bacame a teacher and later principal
of a local primary school) she spent a lot more than an overage person of
her age would.  Although being overseas I didn't know her as well as my
cousins, she made a powerful impression on me for her devotion and
knowledge.  Whatever my cousins know about Hinduism today is largely due
to her influence.  She knew the entire Gita and Ramayana of Tulsidas by
heart and taught them at a nearby mandir.  When she died, former students
of hers came from as far as Bangalore and Calcutta to pay their respects.

> But it’s a question if the community really
> imparted the knowledge for such a state to them or just the physical
> renunciation was emphasized.

They were not admitted to the Pathashalas but that was not as much of an
obstacle as you might think.  Most men were not either.  The primary
method of instruction was within the home from ones own parents or family
priest.  My Motafaibas level of learning could comparable favorably with
most of her male contempararies.  (This btw. is one thing that annoys me
about these modern types.  Sometimes in insisting on "eqaulity" they end
up belittling womens own traditions.  Women don't need to copy men to
enjoy a fulfilling spiritual life.)

>  There was no option for a female except to take
> up this so-called ‘Atma sanyAsa’, but a man normally could remarry or stay
> like that.

Strictly speaking widowed men should also not remarry unless they are
without sons because a son is needed to perform shraddha and carry on the
family line.  But looking back at history one sees there has been a double
standard on this at times.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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