Women not allowed to recite Mantras – Female Impurity in Hindu Religion – 16 Sep 11

Religion

As we are already talking about the topic of suppression of women by religion, I thought I write down some more of my thoughts about this. I consider myself as not being a Hindu anymore. I don’t accept the religion of Hinduism as mine anymore. I have been asked by people how that can be, as I use Mantras in my work and always recommend Mantras to others. I answer that if I accepted Hinduism as my religion, it would include accepting a suppression of women that I don’t agree with. Let me explain this to you.

You may not be aware of this but strict Hindus believe that women are not allowed to read scriptures such as the Vedas. They are not pure enough to read them. That is a subject of men and in their opinion should remain one. Many people forget this or don’t regard this anymore in their daily belief but there are still many men who strictly forbid their wives and daughters to touch the holy books. In a normal Hindu temple you will not see female priests. They are not pure enough for the service for God. Women are not allowed to touch the statue of God or even go as close to it as men do. There are many more situations in which women are in some way ‘second grade’ and not pure enough. Ceremonies, scriptures and a lot more religious actions are forbidden to them.

You will not see female priests and you will not see female Sadhus. Sadhus are the holy men of India who wander around the country without attachment to anybody or anything. They are fully free and only devoted to their God. They get a lot of respect for their devotion. A woman can never reach this state.

The female impurity is even stronger during their time of menstruation. In that time they are not allowed to even enter the temple. Not only the temple though, even their own kitchen is taboo in that period! Why? Because they are considered as unclean and impure during menstruation. This is a tradition widely practiced across India. Men believe that food gets dirty and inedible if a woman touches it who is currently menstruating. In some homes and areas, women completely retreat from company of men during those days because some men believe it would spoil their day to even look at a menstruating woman. I have heard of westerners that they were asked in some Ashrams to wear a visible sign during their menstruation in order to indicate to men not to speak to them and to the kitchen to give them food separately as they would make their complete surrounding impure if they ate with everyone else.

If you hear all this, you may really wonder about this religion. It is quite normal though, people are used to it and many Indian women agree to this practice. They have grown up in this way. I nevertheless ask myself how people can believe that this is God’s will. Why would God want women to be worth less than men? If men can read a book that you consider holy, why would women not read it, too? Why is it a sign of impurity when they go through their cycle, the most natural process on earth which makes life possible?

With the experience of years of working in this field I know however that there are always more women interested in religious matters. Programs are full of women, temples are full of women but still they are the ones discriminated. Instead, they are treated as impure. The reason for this is the male-dominated society in which men wrote scriptures and created rules. That cannot be God’s wish.

So you see, I cannot accept this religion from my heart because I see all its limitations. If I accepted this religion, I would have to accept that the Mantras that I share openly with everyone should actually only be given to men. I would have to tell women that they are not pure enough to recite them. Hinduism would not allow me to give those Mantras to any woman.

If you ask me why I don’t give up the Mantras then, too, as they belong to Hinduism, I have to ask you why? I love Mantras and I see their good effects in calming the mind, bringing you will-power, mental strength and more. I believe they are good for everyone. I can take the good parts of every religion. Why not?

If you have grown up in a Christian culture, as a member of a church, and you decide to leave church, you will still keep the basic values of Christianity, won’t you? Love and compassion for others is not something that you leave behind with your membership in a church. Those values are right and worth keeping. I don’t see anything wrong in believing in the good aspects of different religions. Female suppression is however one of those aspects that I happily leave behind. Gender equality and fairness is something that you don’t need a religion to teach you.

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  1. Rameshwar Shukla

    Well I would like to add some missing points in to this blog entry if you do not mind Swami Balendu. According to scriptures women have no right even to listen or hear the Veda Mantras it is said if they listen to Mantras then mankind should pour hot melted glass in to their ears. Women are not allowed to perform or sit in fire rituals (hawan) or actually any kind of rituals, they should only watch it from distance and take blessings or after ritual is done they can take blessing of priest or their man.

  2. Olga

    Hello Harsharay,Please go through this link, maybe then you will understand.

  3. Zack

    The Jewish tradition has a similar framework — where women in practical, everyday life are certainly dealt with as equals, but according to scripture, handled similarly to how you describe the Hindu path. Similar laws of purity keep women different (not less, necessarily) than how the religion treats men.
    I’d be interested in hearing about how modern Hinduism deals with this. Religious jews frequently use a lot of apologetics to describe the mistreatment away, but it’s always there at the surface.

  4. Swami Balendu

    Thank you Zack for your comment. I have seen that in all main religions women are somehow suppressed and treated differently. Because of many wrong traditions people sometimes started their own path and that’s how many sects came in existence in Hinduism. They created, corrected and changed many scriptures according to their need and thinking. The modern, young generation simply refuses those beliefs which is very good.
    In my Religion blog section you can find many articles with similar topics. Sending you lots of Love.

  5. Ashvini Kumar Saxena

    Swami Ji These are some of the immature traditions . I don’t know when people will become mature

  6. Swami Balendu

    Yes Ashvini these immature traditions are given by religion and I believe until religious preachers and priest and gurus exist, they will continue because these people are responsible to spread this kind of nonsense and superstition in society. But I am very positive about it, people are already coming out from this all and the new generation will refuse to accept this, so that equality of gender will be established nicely in our society.

  7. Ram Krishna Prapann

    I read your article and with due respect, there is no intent of disrespect to women in restricting them reading the Vedas, etc. The main object and purpose of Hindu religion is the salvation of mankind. Hindu religion has given a great amount of respect to women and can never disrespect her. She is the mother and no one can disrespect one’s mother. In the names of all Gods and Goddesses the name of the Goddess comes first. The physical composition of the male and female is not the same and hence they naturally cannot be equal. They have to be treated differently. A man cannot deliver a baby and a woman cannot impregnate a man. We should try and see the intent and purpose of our scriptures and strengthen the faith and belief of people in them if we actually want their benefit and upliftment.

  8. Krishna Kant

    With all due respect to you, I see that differently. I agree with Swami Balendu when he says that in every Indian home there is a big difference and women are often not respected. We all know about the physical differences but that doesn’t make women impure. Saying that women are the mother is all very good and that we cannot disrespect our mother is also fine but it is only an illusion. why do you think otherwise so many minor girls are sold into marriages still nowadays in India? By Hindus? There are problems, you cannot deny that and they have their roots in religious texts that allow men to make women second grade humans.A man cannot deliver a baby, only women can and that is why there has to be more respect than people show nowadays.

  9. Ashvini Kumar Saxena

    Swami Ji, I seriously believe that all the scriptures were created thousands of years back and the times were different. It is a time to adopt them to new society which make them progressive and useful. It is time to leave the notions that this is God and that is lower and that is higher . Progressive means spirit of equality. No one can be equal in all sense to another but given a choice and chance achieve greatness in their own ways.I am not against scriptures (Infact there plenty of practical things in them) but we need to make them more modern and progressive. I agree with @Krishna Kant too

  10. Swami Balendu

    Dear Ashvini, I completely agree with you. We need to reconsider those scriptures with modern time. Of course there are many good and practical things but it does not make sense to adopt things completely which were written thousands of years back. Hope the gurus and swamis of today understand this but they never want people to be progressive for the sake of their own business.

  11. Jagdeep Kaue

    as a religion, hindu-ism is also a way of life. one can follow it as one likes, as one’s own individual requirements and tasts. is just what i think. the various scriptures are books written by people, thankfully, highly learned people, if i am not wrong. yes? which means, at the end of the day, it is just a collection of a lot of knowledge and information, and also, opinions. we can read through those and accept or reject what we wish. like i said, this is what i think.

  12. Saurabh

    I don’t know which place you’re stating, but there is no such thing. The term is Saadhwi, and we have plenty of them. They are ascetics too, highly revered. Ive seen them at the Kumbh. My neighbourhood mandir in Delhi has a woman priest. We call her mata ji. Only Hindus revere women as the form of sacred mother and equal to men in importance for the continuation of the univese (Yin and Yang of China developed out of this concept of Shakti

  13. Swami Balendu

    There are verses in scriptures which announce women are simply impure and 2nd grade citizens. Copying this text from wikipedia: “1. Division of Hindu society into four varnas on the basis of birth. Out of these only the first three, namely , Brahmins , Kshatriya and Vaishya, who are collectively known as dwija (twice-born) are entitled to upanayan and the study of the Vedas. Shudras as well as women of dwija varnas are denied the right to study.”Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manu_Smriti

  14. Rupa Venkatesh Chapalgaonkar

    Pls can you give a more realistic view on the topic pls.

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