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Upanayana for girls April 16, 2006

Posted by vettithoughts in Awareness.
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I was recently reading Krishnavatara VI (The book of Veda Vyaasa- The master) by K.M.Munshi. It is a fantastic series consisting of about 8 books and covers all the incidents during the life time of Krishna. Many incidents are familiar from Mahabharatha. But there are others that very few are aware of.

Veda Vyaasa/ Dvaipaayana is the son of Muni Paraashara and Matsyaa (Who later becomes Empress Satyavati, wife of Shantanu, Emperor of Hastinapur). In chapter 2, when the Muni Paraashara comes to visit his son, he is served fish. This made me wonder when we Brahmins started considering ‘fish’ as not something that should be consumed.

Eating habits apart, Veda Vyaasa is the one who brought the Atharvana Veda back into the fold to make the WORD or VEDAS four fold – Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva (Apparently, Sage Vashishta created a rift with the Atharvana Veda people when he and his followers accepted that the WORD consisted only of Rig, Yajur and Sama). Made me think if anyone belongs to the Atharvana Veda (??) and if it is followed today.

But what fascinates me to no end, is the fact that Vyaasa’s wife was invested with the sacred thread and went through the Brahmacharini stage for 12 years (Chapter 16: “According to the practice enjoined by the Vedas, if the father so liked- and in most cases he did not- a daughter could be invested with the sacred thread, and put through the discipline of a Brahmacharini for 12 years, studying the WORD and undergoing rigorous self-discipline. She would then enjoy the status and priviledge of a Srotriya, a privilege denied to women who had not undergone it.”)

So, I googled to find out if there has been other instances in our literature about Upanayana for girls.

The following paragraphs are from various sources online:

“Women were then admitted to fulfill religious rites and consequently to complete educational facilities. Women-sages were callee Rishikas and Brahmavadinis. The Rig Veda knows of the following Rishikas 1.Romasa 2.Lopamudra 3.Apala 4. Kadru 5.Visvavara 6. Ghosha 7. Juhu 8. Vagambhrini 9. Paulomi 10 Jarita 11. Sraddha-Kamayani 12. Urvasi 12. Sarnga 14. Yami 15. Indrani 18. Savitri 19. Devajami 20. Nodha 21 Akrishtabhasha 22. Sikatanivavari 23. Gaupayana. The Brahmavadinis were the products of the educational discipline of brahmacharaya for which women also were eligible. Rig Veda refers to young maidens completing their education as brahmacharinis and then gaining husbands in whom they are merged like rivers in oceans. Yajurveda similarly states that a daughter, who has completed her brahmacharya, should be married to one who is learned like her. A most catholic passage occurs in YajurVeda (xxvi, 2) which enjoins the imparting of Vedic knowledge to all classes, Brahmins and Rajanyas, Sudras, Anaryas, and charanas (Vaisyas) and women. No one can recite Vedic prayers or offer Vedic sacrifices without having undergone the Vedic initiation (Upanayana). It is, therefore, but natural that in the early period the Upanayana of girls should have been as common as that of boys. The Arthava Veda (xi. 5.8) expressly refers to maidens undergoing the Brahmacharya discipline and the Sutra works of the 5th century B.C. supply interesting details in its connection. Even Manu includes Upanayana among the sanskaras (rituals) obligatory for girls (II.66).” Link

“A Hindu woman whose name was Romasha revealed the 126th hymn of the first book of the Rig Veda; the 179 hymn of the same book was by Lopamudra, another inspired Hindu woman. There are a dozen names of woman revealers of the Vedic wisdom, such as Visvavara, Shashvati, Gargi, Maitreyi, Apala, Ghosha, and Aditi, who instructed Indra, one of the Devas, in the higher knowledge of Brahman, the Universal Spirit. Every one of them lived the ideal life of spirituality, being untouched by the things of the world. They are called in Sanskrit Brahmavadinis, the speakers and revealers of Brahman.” Link

A not so recent news, Link

“Backed by scripture, girls get their sacred thread

By V.L. Manjul, Pune, India

Ten young brahmin girls received their upanayana, or thread ceremony, commencing the study of the Vedas, on April 2, 2000. Normally this rite of passage is only for boys and not allowed for girls. This was the first ceremony of its kind for girls in Pune, India. The followers of Shankar Seva Samiti organized it with Vedamurti Karmabalekar Shastri as the officiating priest. The girls came with their parents and were initiated into the Gayatri Mantra by their fathers.”

I wonder when the trend changed, that women should not have the sacred thread ceremony or recite Gayathri mantra.

Comments»

1. vettithoughts - May 26, 2006

Sriram,Thanks I was not aware of that.I think when people talk about hinduism everyone should also be made aware of how different it was then and how it has evolved to the form it is now. I always wonder when we became so closed and caught up in our own ego that what has been actually said in Vedas have been misconstructed and misrepresented.

2. DesiGirl - October 13, 2006

Another new thing I learnt today!
I did some reading on Arya Samaj many moons ago and came across some of what you are talking about. But you have portrayed things in such detail.
Made for great reading!


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