Modern Feminism has scapegoated Indian society in such a way that criticism of traditional customs of feminine worship have become an everyday thing. Self styled feminists eagerly wait for occasions like Navaratri and Durgostsava to slander Indic virtues. But to what extent does this criticism holds ground is a matter of question which we need to address.
To analyze this, let us first have an introduction to the term ‘feminism’ and its significance in the west. Feminism has its roots in early eras of western civilization demanding political, economic and cultural equality to women. During the time of Roman Republic women were not allowed to express their opinions, Rules like Oppian law limited their access to gold and expensive goods, they were prohibited to ride in carriages, access to knowledge was rare. Even Latin literary genres offer women glimpses through male narratives. To overcome this intersectionality and to gain social status women sought for domination, which could only be granted by political and economic authority because these were the pillars of the western society. Where in economic bring in and political hold was considered supreme aspects ,and the one who could posses these supreme aspects was held as prepotent. And due to inherent muscular strength and higher testosterone levels, men were considered fit for the task, making the society male dominant.
But this wasn’t the case with Bharat, When Western nations were busy fighting territorial battles, we developed most sophisticated and divine Culture ;when they relied on Paramountcy, we preached Dharma; when they struggled for feminism, we worshipped Shakti ; when they were stuck with equality, we believed in pluralism. The struggle for equality in west in nothing but the competition to prove that feminine can oppress masculine by inheriting their traits. For example, a women is considered empowered only if she is a bread winner. But Views regarding gender in our culture are different from those standardized by worldly life, they are egalitarian. In our context, Gender equality refers to different behavior, aspirations, needs of both men and women are considered, valued and favored equally. Our scriptures preach worshiping Ardhanareshwar (Lord Shiva having body of two halves, male and female) telling that the man and women represent two aspects of one person; no matter whether you are male or female, you are a combination of Shiva and Shakti.
Our civilization isn’t centered over domination, it believes that men and women are supposed to be complementary not substituting. The main struggle of feminism in west arose from unequal marital rights where the women were considered inferior. But our civilization considers women Ardhangini and Sahadharmini which means better half of her husband in journey of life and attainment of goals. Also is a Sahayogini and a Sahakarmini which assumes her as vertebral co operator having equal shares in all jobs and ventures. Together they are called Dampati having joint responsibility of the household.
Another aspect was unequal educational rights, which is dropped out in a testimonial fashion by many verses in Vedic scriptures which glorify women like no other. One similar example is in Rigveda (7.78.3) verse which says,
Whether they were Gurumatas like Sati Anusaya in Ramayana ,Shishyas like those depicted in Valmiki aashram of Uttar Ramayana, Rishikas like Urvashi, Lopamudra, Apale, Shishyasi, Vishwavara, ghosha etc. who co authored major parts of Rigveda, Maharani Malalsa who contributed to Markendeya Purana, Mantravid like Kushalya, Bramha Vadinis like Vedawati who used to spend most of the lifetime in search of Wisdom or lady philosophers like Gargi who indulged in Shastrarth (debates), Vedic women held an elevated position.Coming to Political Status of women; The so called muscular inferiority did not stop Vedic women from engaging in warfare. Rigveda refers to queen Bishappala, bharhut sculptures represent skilled horsewomen in the army, Maharishi Patanjali mentions the Shaktikis (women spear bearers) ,Kautilya mentions Strighana Dhanvibhi (women archers). Moreover there were strong women political leaders like Rani Abbaka Chowta of Ullal and Rani Rudrama Devi of Kakatiya Dynasty.
This was the level of equality which our culture granted, it used to be more progressive when it comes to Women’s status in the society than it is now or maybe even more than the present western nations.
After looking at all these evidences It would require highly ignorant and prejudiced mind to apply western notions of Feminism to Vedic cultural practices. And we should accept the fact that the society has undergone stupendous changes after centuries of violent clashes and foreign invasions, and this has resulted in simultaneous deterioration of women status in Indian society which we need to restore not by shamming traditional practices but by reinstalling the glory of age old Indic Civilization.