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Women in India

  • Date Submitted: 11/10/2010 05:11 AM
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The status of women in India has been subject to many great changes over the past few millennia. From equal status with men in ancient times through the low points of the medieval period, to the promotion of equal rights by many reformers, the history of women in India has been eventful. In modern India, women have adorned high offices in India including that of the President, Prime minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition, etc. The incumbent President of India is a woman.

History

There are very few texts specifically dealing with the role of women; an important exception is the strIdharmapaddhati of Tryambakayajvan, an official at Thanjavur around c.1730. The text compiles strictures on womenly behaviour dating back to the Apastamba sutra (c. 4th c. BCE). The opening verse goes:
mukhyo dharmaH smr^tiShu vihito bhartr^shushruShANam hi :
the primary duty of women is enjoined to be service to one's husband.
where the term shushruShA (lit. "desire to hear") covers a range of meanings from the devotee's homage to god, or the obsequious service of a slave.
Ancient India
Scholars believe that in ancient India, the women enjoyed equal status with men in all fields of life. However, some others hold contrasting views. Works by ancient Indian grammarians such as Patanjali and Katyayana suggest that women were educated in the early Vedic period Rigvedic verses suggest that the women married at a mature age and were probably free to select their husband. Scriptures such as Rig Veda and Upanishads mention several women sages and seers, notably Gargi and Maitreyi.
Some kingdoms in the ancient India had traditions such as nagarvadhu ("bride of the city"). Women competed to win the coveted title of the nagarvadhu. Amrapali is the most famous example of a nagarvadhu.
According to studies, women enjoyed equal status and rights during the early Vedic period. However, later (approximately 500 B.C.), the status of women began to decline with the Smritis...

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