Women and Ancient India

Bajinder Singh


Women were provided opportunity to attain high intellectual and spiritual standard. But women started being discriminated against since the Later-Vedic period in education. Child marriage, widow burning, the purdah and polygamy further worsened the women’s position. In ancient India, there were two types of scholarly women — the Brahmavadinis, or the women who never married and cultured the Vedas throughout their lives; and the Sadyodvahas who studied the Vedas till they married. Megasthenes mentioned the Pandya women running the administration. Women were provincial and village administrators in the Kannada region. Apparently this civilization succumbed to major natural disasters that changed the course of the Indus River. Aryan’s highly hierarchical society was led by the Brahmin priests, who imposed political and religious power over the rest. The next texts that speak about women in Ancient India are the Laws of Manu. Law codes are nearly always prescriptive not descriptive literature. Hinduism developed, certain facets became dominant: the caste system, karma, dharma, and reincarnation. In the two famous epics of India, the Mahabharata, and Ramayana, women are shown as having more freedom and competency than in the religious and legal literature. In religious matters, Hindus have elevated women to the level of divinity. One of the things most misconstrued about India and Hinduism is that it’s a male dominated society and religion and the truth is that it is not so. It is a religion that has attributed the words for the strength and power to feminine.

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