Gayatri Mantra

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon May 27 22:58:09 CDT 2002

I was forced to remain away from the list for a few days.  In order to
save time I'm going to reply to several posts at once and following Ravis
admonition, I'm only going to comment on bits where useful light can be

Ashish Chandra wrote:

> I am not certain why the verses from SYV XXVI-2 are not mentioned.

Could it be ecause they don't support the authors position in any way,
shape, or form?

> But I  think this question is best answered by someone who has a copy of
> SYV and can post the relevant mantra as well as its meaning.

According to the commentaries of Uvataacharya and Mahidhara the yajus
mentioned says "let my speech be accepted by the the people whether they
are Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Shudras or Aryas [Vaishyas,] loved ones or
strangers [or perhaps enemies], Dakshina to make me favored by the Devas I
give at this time so my desires may be fulfilled.  Thus I name ___."

It is to be spoken prior to drinking the Soma.  The speech in question is
the samkalpa to be spoken before then where the yajamana specifies the
reason he is performing the yajna. (This fills in the blank.)

Chanting this mantra merely states the desire that both men and Gods
should not think ill of the sacrificers wish.

> This was told to me by a Gujarati Vaishnava Pushtimargi who are, I think,
> converts from Jainism to Vaishnavism.

As longtime neighbors, there has no doubt been some "leakage" between
Pushti Margis and Jains (in both directions) bt it would wrong to consider
the former converts.  Vallabhacharya himself was a Telang (Andhra)

Vishal Agarwal wrote:

> The Itihasa-Purana is certainly the fifth Veda, but how are we sure that
> the verses debarring women from Vedic recitations are not
> interpolations?

How do we know they are not?  Obviously there is no direct means.  However
we can look at the context.  Many people are mentioned as reciting Vedas
in the Puranas.  They are invariably men.  Why do you think that is?

Vishal Agarwal wrote:

> The Vedic mantrasamhitas DO NOT pre-suppose ANY SHASTRA external to them.

On the contrary the very form they have come down to us indicates prior
arrangement.  In fact this is why Krishna Dvaipayana is called Veda Vyasa
(the arranger of the Vedas.)  The order of the mantras in the Yajur and
Sama Vedas is based on ritual considerations.  Thus they presuppose kalpa
shastra.  Perhaps not in the exact form we have today but 'external'
nonetheless.  The mention of Parikshit, along with other incidental
references to the three strides of Vishnu Bhagawan, Indra and Vrtra etc.
also indicate the existence of "Purana"  In fact Sayanacharya
(in Rkbhashyopodghata) applies the term Purana to some of the mantras
themselves.  Again this may not mean the exact texts we have today but it
does back up the way our tradition basically treats Vedas and Puranas on
the same level.

Vishal Agarwal wrote:

> 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 Vedas.


> there WAS a time when women recited at least some Veda, even though
>currently (at least for the last 3000 years),

Thankyou for finally admitting the obvious.  I'm very amused by your words
because usually it is us orthodox-minded people who are accused of living
in the past.  Now you are suggesting we go 3000 years back in the past!

Well maybe when dinosaurs ruled the earth women did recite the Vedas.  My
theory is in those days they smeared ghee on themselves and ran around
backwards.  I have about as much actual facts to back up my theory as you do.

> 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.

There is a third perspective which I suspect animates you more than you
let on, namely politics.

> 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.

A mere 5%.  So even in the earliest records there was nothing approaching
equality.  And even that is assuming the anukramanis have any "secular
historical" value which is debatable.

> 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.

The chart in my copy of Shatapathabrahmana (which claims to b based on
charanavyuha) does not mention Sulabha.  Did you perhaps mean Sutapa

> The various Acharyas followed the conventions of their times, and
> habitually debarred women from Yajnopavita (which itself is attested only
> in Katha Brahmana

Not true it is mentioned in the 9th Kanda of Shatapathabrahmana too. I
gave the reference the last time this topic came up.

> - doubts of its Vedicness being expressed even in the
> time of Bhatta Kumarila)

Frankly I don't believe this.  Quote please.

> 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 aeons.

Again I would like to see some quotes about this.  How convenient that the
Yamasmrti is lost.

> 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.

One of the most irritating things about modern people in general is their
belief that they invented everything. Anything complicated must have
happened recently and the past was just a simple cartoon.  In fact social
conventions and thinking regarding the status of women and their
relationship to men was as varied then as today.  Bhaskara Mishra a
near-contemporary of Shankaracharya extended the prohibition of Vedic
study by women to even the Gita and other smrtis which deal with adhyatma.
This was very much a minority view.  The Digambar Jains went so far as to
say women are inherently sinful and their best hope was to be reborn as a
man in their next life.  On the other hand we know there were sects who
allowed women much more substantial participation in spiritual life.
Commenting on the apashudraadhikarana of the Brahmasutras, Shankaracharya
duly upholds the inability of women and shudras to take part in Vedic
study bt goes on to add at the end they can still get moksha through
smrtis lie the Puranas or Mahabharata.  What guided him was not political
or solcial considerations but the internal logic of the shastras
themselves.  Moksha is not something that can be given by any shastra or
guru or god.  It is innate in every conscious being so if one way to it is
barred, there must be other ways.

> So, to decide this issue, we need to figure out why we want to resolve
> this question at all.
> They never saw any need to oppose it, and the women were not clamouring
> exactly to become srotriyas.

Exactly.  Being shrotriya is a means to an end not an end in itself.

> 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?

> By today's standards, Bhagvatpada Shankaracharya et al would be considered
> wrong in debarring Women and Sudras from reciting the Vedas. That is my
> firm assessment.

By "todays standards" all religion is obsolete so we should be
discussing socialism or free-market capitalism instead.  We look to
our shastras and acharyas for eternal verities not the intellectual
fad of the day so todays standards and their proponents can
jump in a lake for all I care.  Really, if the only purpose of religion
nowadays is to chase the taillights of secular society than we may as well
pack it all in now.

Feminism (of various types--it is not a monolith either) has had an impact
and will continue to transform societies in various ways but whether this
has to be at the expense of traditional beliefs remains to be seen.  I
know in my case my wife who like me is 31 and educated in the west (she
actually has more formal education than me) didn't have any problem with
marrying me even though she knew what kind of a person I was and what I
believed in.  Our religion provides for the spiritual needs of all kinds
of people.  That it does not treat them all as the same is a plus not a

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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