Gayatri Mantra

Vishal Agarwal vishalagarwal at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri May 17 05:36:09 CDT 2002

You are correct in stating every community CURRENTLY subscribes to the
notion that women do not take the Yajnopavita and therefore do not chant the
We need to consider if this was always the case. We can tackle this question
from two perspectives - the 'secular' historical perspective and the Hindu
religious perspective.

According the the former, the Arshanukramanis represent, by and large, the
names of the authors of the corresponding hymns. As we know, for RV alone,
there are 21/407 women listed as Rishikas. So apparently, from this
perspective, women composed and recited at least their own Suktas. In the
course of time, the mantras and brahmanas authored by various Rishis and
Rishikas were collected into Ur-collections (in the Indian tradition, the
last compiler is called Veda Vyasa) from which they further proliferated in
the form of various Sakhas. During all this time, the Indian society
changed. By the time these collections were frozen and imparted a rigorous
chanting/verbal format, women were by and large excluded from Vedic
recitations. An exception perhaps was Sulabhaam, who is the promulgator of
the Saulabha sakha of RV, and is remembered in the Rishi tarpana lists in
Rigvediya grhyasutras. Further down the line, women were totally excluded
from Vedic recitations, and this is the period when the Itihasa - Purana
were authored and/or given their present shape. The various Acharyas
followed the conventions of their times, and habitually debarred women from
Yajnopavita (which itself is attested only in Katha Brahmana - doubts of its
Vedicness being expressed even in the time of Bhatta Kumarila) and Vedic

>From a Hindu religious perspective, the Vedas are endless and beginningless
in time. At the beginning of this cycle of Creation, Ishvara revealed them
to the Rishis and Rishikas (or alternately they revealed these hymns to
mankind after inspiration in their spiritually elevated selves) and
thereafter, the texts were transmitted in an unbroken succession of teachers
and disciples, down to the present days. Even the Hindu religious traditions
has a faint memory, as evidence from citations of lost Yama Smrti for
instance (in later Dharmashastra digests) that 'women of the yore recited
the Vedas and wore the sacred thread' but that this practice has lapsed for

So, from both perspectives (which I have narrated admittedly in a very
amateurish manner), there WAS a time when women recited at least some Veda,
even though currently (at least for the last 3000 years), this has been
contrary to established practices in the society.

Our Vedantacharyas lived in the last 2 millennia (I am not talking of their
paramparas stretching back to Veda Vyasa Maharshi) and by their times, the
idea of debarring women from Vedic recitations was very well established.
They never saw any need to oppose it, and the women were not clamouring
exactly to become srotriyas.

So, to decide this issue, we need to figure out why we want to resolve this
question at all.

Do we want to decide of women are eligible to recite the Vedas today? Or do
we want to limit ourselves to a svadhyaya of our sampradaya's shastras, in
the sampradaya's traditions? Or do we want to combine the two approaches?

As for the effect of Vedic recitations on 'fatherhood' and 'motherhood', we
need to define the terms first. Is a Srotiya who is busy with his Vedic
recitations at all times, and neglects his children consequently, a good

Is fatherhood merely procreation of children?

Vishal Agarwal

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