THE STATUS OF INDIAN WOMEN DURING THE ANCIENT PERIOD
Many women have comforted themselves with a view of many scholars that women were greatly honored in the ancient India from Vedic times. They enjoyed freedom good status and learning opportunities. The decline in the woman’s status later resulted from the foreign invasions. In those days women must have had certainly freedom It appears that the Vedic women were probably comparable to modern women.
Recently some women historians have attempted different interpretations of the original Brahmanical Texts. On the one hand Scriptures have glorifies womanhood. They have treated women as the equals of men. On the other hand some sacred texts held women not only disrespect but even in a positive hatred. There are contradictions and generalizations, which can be interpreted in either way. For example Manu has said that where women are honoured the Gods are leased but where they are not honoured , no sacred rite yields any reward. But it is as clear as day light that the same Manu has formulated the theory of sacred tutelage of women when he said that a woman has to depend on her father in her childhood, on her husband in youth and on her sons during her old age and no woman is fit for freedom. ‘Pita` rakshathi Kaumare Bhartha rakshathi yavvane Rakshanthi Putrah Stavire, na Sthree svatantram arhati . Yagnavalkya had said that women are the embodiment of all divine virtues on earth. Soma has bestowed all his purity on them. Gandhrva has given them sweetness of speech and Agni has showered all his brilliance to make them most attractive. She is the goddess(Devata0 as well as a lurer (pramada). Manu says women are able to lead astray not only the ignorant but also even the learned men and make him a slave of lust and anger. Such lofty ideals about women have been repeated in Ramayana and Mahabharatha also.
It is said in Mahabharatha that there is nothing that is more sinful than women. She is held to be weak and fickle-mined and unworthy of being trusted. Women were regarded as the means of satisfying the physical desires of men to serve them and to satisfying the physical desires of men to serve them and secure them progeny. The way Manu wanted men to consider women as things of possession unqualified to enjoy freedom and the way Drawpadi was pawned in the game of dice, undoubtedly go to prove that in the early stages of Indian Civilization women were regarded no better than chattels and slaves.
The social status of women during Vedic and post Vedic period can be ascertained from the extent of freedom they enjoyed or the restrictions imposed on them in various fields of life. Among the higher sections of the society the sacred initiation of girls was common and they subsequently used to go through a course of education. Some of them used to attain distinction in the realm of theology and philosophy. She took part in the philosophic debate like men and with men. Many embraced teaching career It is well known that during the Upanishadic period there were many Brahmavadinis like Gargi Maitreye Lopamudra Sikata Gosha etc. Many women contributed greatly to the construction of Vedic Hymns. Infact the education of women was looked as so important that the Atharva Veda asserted that the success of woman in married life depends upon her proper training during the brahmacharya.