STATUS OF WOMEN IN INDIA – HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
- The status of women refers to her position in the network of social role structure, privileges, rights and duties.
- It refers to her rights and duties in family and social life.
- The status of a woman is generally measured in the comparative amount of prestige and respect accorded to her with that of man.
- The status of Hindu women in India has been fluctuating.
- It has gone through several changes during various historical stages.
- Historically speaking, women in India have passed through two phases of their life – the period of subjugation and the period of liberation. At times she has been suppressed and oppressed and at times she is regarded as the deity of the home.
- From the Vedic age till today, her status and position has been changing with the passing of time.
WOMEN IN VEDIC SOCIETY
- The Rig-Vedic society was a free society.
- The Aryans evidently preferred male child to female child.
- However, females were as free as their male counterparts.
- Education was equally open for boys and girls.
- Girls studied the Veda and fine arts.
- Women never observed purdha in the Vedic period.
- They enjoyed freedom in selecting their mates.
- But divorce was not permissible to them.
POSITION IN FAMILY
- In the family, they enjoyed complete freedom and were treated as Ardhanginis.
- In domestic life women were considered to be supreme and enjoyed freedom.
- Women helped their husbands in agricultural pursuits also.
- Husband used to consult his wife on financial matters.
- Unmarried daughters had share in their fathers’ property.
- Daughter had full legal rights in the property of her father in the absence of any son.
- Mother’s property, after her death, was equally divided among sons and unmarried daughters.
- However, married women had no share in father’s property.
- As a wife, a woman had no direct share in her husband’s property.
- A widowed mother had some rights.
- The woman was regarded as having an equally important share in the social and religious life because a man without woman was considered as an inadequate person.
- She regularly participated in religious ceremonies with her husband.
- There were many scholars who composed hymns of Rig Veda. Lopamudra, Gargi and Maitreye were the pioneers among them.
- Lopamudra, the wife of Agasti rishi, composed two verses of Rig Veda.
LATER VEDIC PERIOD
- However In Later Vedic period, the position that the women folk enjoyed in the early Vedic society, was not retained.
- Manu assigns to the Women of Vedic age, a position of dependence, if not of subordination.
- The Arthasastra attests to considerable restraints placed on their movements.