[Advaita-l] Fw: Gayatri question - How do you answer this question.?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Mar 7 04:04:34 EST 2019

On Thu, 7 Mar 2019, Nithin Sridhar via Advaita-l wrote:

> There is a Smriti Pramana about women being two kinds: Sadhyovadhu &
> Brahmavadini. The latter has Upanayana & hence Vedaadhyana.

Shri Kathirasan mentioned the same thing.  It is not applicable.

The text in question, alleged to be from Harita Smrti says:

dvividhAH striyaH | brahmavAdinyaH sadyovadhyashcha | tatra 
brahmavadinInAmupanayanamabhIndhanaM vedAdhyayanaM svagR^ihe cha 
bhikShAcharyA |

"There are two kinds of women. The Brahmavadini and Sadyovadhu.  Of these 
the Brahmavadini undergoes upanayana and attends the fire and studies Veda 
in her own home living on bhiksha."

We do not derive pramanas by quoting random sentences from random books 
rather we have to look at the way the astikas actually behave, how they 
have interpreted dharma through the centuries and who they have considered 

The existence of this text was first brought to light in 1943 by P.V. Kane 
in his History of Dharmashastra Vol. 1.  It does not occur in the printed 
editions of Harita Smrti available from various places.  (As far as I know 
the sole basis is one mutilated manuscript at B.O.R.I.)  It or similar 
texts do not occur in any of the other well-known smrtis such as Manu, 
Yajnavakya, Parashara etc.

Neither does it occur in any of the well-known dharmashastra nibandhas 
such as chaturvargachintamani, nirnayasindhu, parasharamadhaviyam etc. 
even though the haritasmrti itself is used extensively in those works. It 
is not to be found even in places where it would be appropriate to quote. 
For instance Krtyakalpataru of Lakshmidharacharya quotes Harita almost 50 
times in his section on upanayana but not this part.  According to Kane it 
is quoted in the less-known Smrtichandrika of Devanna Bhatta and the 
obscure chaturvimshatimatasangraha but I was not able to inspect the 
editions he referenced. It definitely does not occur in the Mysore edition 
of the Smrtichandrika.  The popular Nirnayasindhu does mention it but goes 
on to say tadyugAntaraviShayam "It is a practice peculiar to another age." 
It goes on to quote a shloka from Yama smrti:

purAkalpeShu nArINAM mau~njibandhamiShyate |
adhyAyanaM cha vedAnAM sAvitrIvAchanaM tathA ||

"In a previous aeon women undertook maunjibandham (i.e. upanayanam) veda 
adhyayanam and recitation of Savitri (i.e. Gayatri.)

As you can see the author clearly considers this to be inoperative in 
current times.

Furthermore where is the prayoga?  There are 100s of volumes on how to 
perform upanayana for a boy.  How does one initiate a brahmavadini?  Where 
are the historical (i.e. non-mythical) examples of brahmavadinis?

On Mon, 11 Feb 2019, K Kathirasan via Advaita-l wrote:

> The role of women in vedic studies and vedantic studies have evolved
> over time. We see a strong correlation between urbanisation and the role
> of women in the shastras.

We do?  I'd like to see the evidence.

> In the Vedic times, women were deemed to be
> eligible for vedic study through the classification brahmavadini while
> the Sadyovadhu focused on domestic duties. As we moved into the common
> era, women’s duties were primary domesticated.

The trouble with that interpretation is that Kane dates Haritasmrti to c. 
400-700AD.  Well into the common era and well after the period of 
urbanization.  The idea of some liberal golden age in the past is just the 
pipe-dream of some reformers and doesn't bear rational scrutiny.

> With education, the role
> of women have changed yet again making them entitled to vedic study
> these days. So the role of women (and men) is part of vishesha dharma
> and hence will continue to evolve

The modern Indian is fiercely proud of his (or her) illiteracy so I don't 
think education has anything to do with it but you may be on to something 
about the "times." Just as today madam must have a Gucci handbag because 
the cloth bag her grandmother carried won't do, she must have the Gayatri 
mantra because the bhajans her grandmother used to sing as pleasing they 
may have been to Bhagavan will not make her look good in polite society.

> Some acaryas are ready to negotiate with it while some are not ready.

Any Tom, Dick or Harry can call themselves an acharya today but the title 
belongs to one who teaches the right thing to do not the fashionable 

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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