[Advaita-l] Gayatri?

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 17 06:24:10 CDT 2009

Dear Jaldharji,

Thank you for a detailed reply.

One reason for allowing uapanayana for some women in the ancient times could be that the fathers  of such women were vedic rishis themselves , whose  own ashramas were the gurukuls, where the boys came from outside and stayed for their education. In such a situation the rishis could initiate their own daughters to Vedic studies after performing the upanayana. In case of women probably the rishis were allowed to override the custom (or was it an injunction?) that father should not be the teacher. I think Kanve Muni taught the Vedas to his adopted daughter Shakuntala the same way. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Secondly I read long ago that the vedic education was strictly for the Brahmanas in the Satya yuga. It was relaxed for Kshatriyas in the Treta yuga. The Vaishyas could learn vedas in the Dwapara yuga. In Kaliyuga the rstrictions were further relaxed. Further even in the ancient times some discretions were also permitted as otherwise how could Sayakama, being a low-born have learnt the Vedas.


Sunil K. Bhattacharjya

--- On Thu, 7/16/09, Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com> wrote:

From: Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Gayatri?
To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Date: Thursday, July 16, 2009, 10:42 PM

On Thu, 16 Jul 2009, Sunil Bhattacharjya wrote:

> Any comment on Harita allowing upanayana for women.

This is what hAritasmR^iti says:

dvividhAH striyaH | brahmavAdinyaH sadyovadhvashcha | tatra brahmavAdinInAmupanayanamagnIndhanaM vedAdhyayanaM svagrhe cha bhikshAcharyA |

"There are two type of women: Brahmavadinis [knowers of Brahman] and
Sadhyovadhus [virtuous wives]. Of these, the Brahmavadinis have upanayana
and tend Agni.  They learn Veda in their homes and live on alms.

This is known to scholars of dharmashastra from the nirNayasindhu of kamalAkara bhaTTa where it is quoted in the section on upanayana in the 3rd pariccheda.  It's fame amongst reformers comes from being quoted in "History of Dharmashastra" by P.V. Kane.


1. kamalAkara calls this practice yugantara (of another age.)  He quotes yama as evidence that this is not followed in current days as follows:

purAkalpeShu nArINAM mau~njIbandhanamiShyate | adhyAyapanaM cha vedAnAM sAvitrIvAchanaM tathA |

"In former ages, women used to undergo upanayana.  They studied Vedas and recited savitri [i.e. Gayatri mantra]"

Again, note the emphasis on former ages.

2. Kane says hArIta is quoted in dharmashastras such as manvArthamuktAvalI on manusmR^iti by kullUka bhaTTa, brahmachArikAnDa of kR^ityakalpataru of lakShmidharAcharyA, smR^itichandrikA of devANNa bhaTTa etc.  Yet none of these these sources quote the text above even in contexts where it would be highly relevant.  (Devanna bhaTTa actually quotes Manus verse forbidding Vedic study for women in his chapter on the subject of stri sanskaras.)  The authors mentioned above were a Bengali living in Kashi, a minister of the last Hindu king of Delhi, and a native of Andhra Pradesh respectively.  It is rather strange that no one in the whole of India across a wide range of time would mention it even if only to refute the idea.

3. An epitome of the hArItasmR^iti is given in adhyAyas 65-67 of the
nR^isiMha UpapurANa.  Yet this text is not included in the treatment of
the subject of upanayana.  Why not?

4. Apart from quotations in other works, only one manuscript of hAritasmR^iti has ever been found and it is mutilated condition. This is despite the fact that all lists of the "18 smrtis" include Harita.  There is a collection of 18 smrtis which was been published out of Bengal but the harita smrti contained therein is not the same as this manuscript.

5.  Even if accepted as genuine, this text is strange.  It presents Vedic
studentship and wifehood as two seperate paths.  But for men, upanayana
and vedadhyayana is not an alternative to marriage.  On the contrary we
are expected to enter gr^ihasthAshrama after brahmachAryAshrama.  It says
the brahmavadinis learn in their own house.  But a brahmachAri is supposed
to go to the gurus house.  So I think it is depicting some kind of
naiShTika brahmachArya rather than the vedic study that boys do.  It was probably never popular and became extinct a long time ago.

These are the meager threads with which reformers try to spin a grand tapestry of a utopian Vedic golden age which we ought to return to. However on top of all I mentioned above there is a practical problem. What is the procedure for actually conducting such an upanayana? nirNayasindhu has about 70 pages on the topic for boys.  The two sentences
quoted above are all there is for girls.  At this point the reformers just pull something out of their hats.  But if you are just going to make it all up as you go along, why even bother with the pretense that you are following shastras?

-- Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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