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THE IDEAL OF INDIAN WOMANHOOD

The United Nations Women’s Decade is coming to a close. In India, the decade has passed off quietly like the agile movement of the shy and humble Indian women. Not that we do not have leaders of women’s lib in our country. Nor is it that Indian women are too illiterate or unassertive to make their voice heard at least in this decade. The reason simply is that the concept of women’s lib is too alien and unpalatable to the Indian Women to swallow. Really they do not think that they need it too. It does not mean that women enjoy complete freedom and equality in our society as in the West. Yet, they do not feel that they are treated as bonded slaves or second-class citizens. Our hoary culture has left a deep important and responsible members enjoying equal if not superior position. Not that there are no atrocities against women. Bride burning, dowry deaths, women trade and rape are not so very rare in our country.  But the women in our country are, on the whole, better placed than their counterparts in other countries. Yes, in this contrary we do not look upon women as an object of enjoyment. Our culture prohibits even a husband from casting a lustful eye on his wife. 

India is the only land and Hindu culture is the only culture in which women are proclaimed as manifestations of the Divine Mother. “Streeya samasta tava devi bheda” says the  Devi Bhagavata. 

Woman is the center of the house. “Grihani grihamucyate”. The whole fabric of family life is woven around her. She is the Grihalakshmi- the goddess of wealth and prosperity of the house. She is a Sahadharmini- an equal partner in the religious and spiritual life of her spouse. Manu declared: “Where Women are honoured, there Gods revel”. Any injustice done to a woman would bring ruin to the whole society. Ravana abducted Sita; the Lanka was destroyed. Dussasana insulted Draupadi in the Kaurava court; the Kauravas were totally destroyed in the Mahabharata war. That is the lesson that our epics teach. Even the Trinities- Brahma, Vishnu and Siva- were humbled by the power of chastity of Sati Anasuya. 

Woman is considered as a deity in the sanctum sanctorum of the family. That is why Manu has said that ‘the father must protect her when she is a girl, the husband in her youth and the children in her old age and on no account she should be forced to protect herself ‘. But this statement has often been misinterpreted and Manu accused of advocating slavery of women. 

Looking at the Indian woman through the western glasses, one sees bondage and inequality. But, when we look at the woman of the West through Indian glasses, we can see that her so called equality and freedom has shattered family life and marriage has been reduced to conjugal life according to one’s convenience. How many children of these marriages of conveniences have turned into Hippies! 

Our women will not pass resolution that housewives must be paid salaries for cooking at home. She would not want to be professional cook in the house. She would like to remain as Annapoorani-the one who feeds the whole family. Our females would like to be modest girls in the childhood, chaste housewives in the youth and beloved mothers in the old age. 

But, then, what about crimes against women in our country? Our womenfolk can themselves solve these problems in a trice, provided they have the necessary will. If every mother in our country wills not to demand or accept dowry for their sons, our helpless boys will not be constrained to strain their relationships with their life-partners. If every woman wills not to admire or imitate the dress and manners of a cinema actress who exposes her flesh to arouse a sensual thrill, and totally boycott crime and sex films, and also wills not to allow into their house any journal that thrives on morally degrading crime and sex stories which corrupt the minds of our younger generation, what a tremendous transformation can be brought into our society! How many Jhansi Ranis are there to stand up?  

Let the United Nations Women’s Decade in our country bring before the people the ideal of womanhood depicted in the heroic women of India like Sita, Savitri, Damayanti, Arundati, Anasuya, Padmini, Meera, Sarada, Nivedita, Ksturba andothers of the like, Let our womanfolk imbibe their spirit. We will then usher in a Krita Yuga in our country.  VANDE MATARAM! 

WOMEN OF INDIA 

Now the ideal of woman in India is the mother: the mother first and mother last. The word woman calls up to the mind of the Hindu, motherhood; and God is called Mother. As children, every day, when we are boys, we have to go early in the morning with a little cup of water and place it before the mother, and mother dips her toe into it and we drink. 

In the west the woman is wife. The idea of womanhood is concentrated there as the wife. To the ordinary man in India, the whole force of womanhood is concentrated in motherhood. In the wesgtern home the wife rules. In an Indian home the mother rules. If a mother comes into a western home, she has to be subordinate to the wife; to the wife belongs the home.. A mother always lives in our homes: the wife must be subordinate to her. See all the difference of ideas. 

—Swami Vivekananda 

Author : Professor Sadhu Rangarajan

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