Hindu Organization of Long Island

Awareness   Communication   Resource


Women in Vedic Culture

Vedic philosophy holds that human nature and human potential is limitless and free, unbound by spatial and temporal factors such as gender, age, caste, race, or geography. The ultimate goal for all humans, according to the Vedas, is moksha or liberation. Therefore, the Vedas do not confine women to a limited social role or deny them opportunities based on gender. In the Vedas and the Upanishads, there are many examples of female philosophers, sages and poets: Gargi, Maitreyi, Ghosa, Ghoda and Apala among others. The Vedas, as well as many smritis (lesser texts based on interpretations of the Vedas), explicitly allow for upanayanam (commencement of spiritual education and qualification for performing rituals) for girls. In early Vedic society this was a common practice, although it became less and less common as years went on.

In addition, Hindu philosophy holds that both the masculine principle (passive detachment) and the feminine principle (energetic action) are necessary and equally important in the creation and maintenance of the universe. This is why Ishvara (God) is both masculine and feminine (represented in the half-male, half-female deity Ardhanarishvara) and why there are Hindu goddesses as well as gods.

There are some smritis that advocate a lesser role for women. However, many smritis and the Vedas and Upanishads themselves do not endorse or allow for an unequal relationship between men and women.