[Advaita-l] Gayatri?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri Jul 17 00:42:06 CDT 2009

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 

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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