[I am on a journey to understand the rich heritage and cultural diversity of India. In this new series, titled Vedic India, I will explore Male Dominated Vedic India and will try to understand from Vedic Gurus, and Vedic literature about the existence of certain social customs (like Child Marriage, Polygyny, Sati and other customs) that existed in India in Vedic times but are considered as sinful or as offence today.
This series is motivated by a very controversial book “Women : Mothers or Masters” written by Bhakti Vikasa Swami of Krishna Consciousness Movement.
The primary aim of this series is to understand if the male domination in Vedic India was really discrimination against women as feminists’ often portray.
All articles under Vedic India can be viewed – here
Also find articles under Modern Feminism – here]
Any marriage of a child below the legal age of marriage (18 and 21 years for girls and boys respectively) is considered as Child Marriage. Child Marriage is considered a crime today but it was considered normal in Vedic era. In fact, if a girl was not married within three years of her puberty by her father, the girl was given permission to choose her own husband in Vedic customs.
Child Marriage, as the Indian census data shows and explained here still exists in certain parts of India. As feminists all over the world, project it as one form of female genital mutilation and forcing them to get raped, the data shows even boys are married in their childhood. Apart from the theory of genital mutilation, feminists also show how a girl is not allowed to choose her own husband and hence not given enough freedom.
A careful scrutiny of the Vedic custom tells us that in Vedic India even though these children were married at a tender age (like 8 years), they were not allowed to live together or to have sexual relation. This custom of marriage was only a betrothal ceremony of the couple and after this ceremony they continued to live with their parents until they attained maturity.
In this period, they met only occasionally and were not allowed to meet in private. In these occasions, the girl would cook and serve food or would engage in some basic social interactions with the boy and they would never get physical. This is how, the children were taught to learn about married life from their elders and this period was used to make them know each other. This is how the Vedic India created a strong bond in the childhood between the spouses and both were debarred from thinking about other boy / girl. So, Vedic India created a strong platonic bond between the couple before they started living together. This bond thus developed remained strong throughout their lives. Since free mixing of boys and girls were not permitted, they were automatically prohibited from thinking about others as potential mates.
After marriage, the boy in Vedic India would typically undergo dharmic lessons and would learn to follow his dharma according to his position in Varnashrama (e.g. brahmin dharma, khastriya dharma etc) and learn basic lessons of life.
The girl however would learn the lessons of how to perform her motherly duties and take care of family and husband and also acquire knowledge from Hindu Shashtra mostly from her grandmother. Her education was mostly based on these stories and homely practices. Since, mother was considered the primary guru of a child, she was given best behavioral and sanskara training to inculcate the same in her children.
After this education, both of them were allowed to stay together like husband and wife. Even after that they were not given full freedom. The boy (or the husband) used to be under the guidance and observance of his father and had to obey his father. This is how under the able guidance of elders the couple used to start and continue their conjugal journey.
This custom of child marriage that was created in Vedic India was so much full-proof that Hindu society didn’t have any divorce. But, there were misuse of this system as well. Young girls being married off with very old men led to one form of abuse. However, as Vedic gurus say, that is only demonic application of Vedic customs.
The Vedic society was also against the boy and the girl given too many choices to choose from when they wanted to choose their partner. They believed, that it is the duty of their fathers to choose the right partner based on factors, like caste, family, horoscope etc. Vedic India believed, too much freedom of choice given to the boy or the girl could be detrimental to their own benefit.
In this context, Vedic gurus give example of modern society where the boy and the girl are given enough freedom to choose their own partner and they also may have multiple fiancés but can’t commit to anyone. This choice in a way spoil everyone. In fact, if we look around we will see enough women who have attained 40 years of age but never ever married. A situation unthinkable in Vedic times. In Vedic era, they would have become a grandmother or great grandmothers at that age.
The Vedic system was also based on basic human physiology and knew that motherhood at an older age will not only create weaker offsprings but will also create dangers to mothers’ health. A reality of today’s society is increase in congenital disorders, unwanted abortions and other abnormalities and challenges during birth of a baby.
A late marriage is also detrimental to both genders because they always feel that they could get a better choice if they had waited sometime longer. As a result, commitment to the spouse and the family members comes down. In child marriages, children were trained about their behavior with their in-laws house and since they had enough time to understand each other and their families, they used to grow more affection towards each other and each-others families. However, it is not true today.
People marrying at an old age, often have very old parents to take care. Coupled with this the one child problem makes the only child responsible for the well-being of old age parents. So, he / she becomes immobile for marriage. Since, we live in different cities due to our work today, we have even greater difficulty in finding a match without a lot of trouble. Added to this, women themselves develop several physical problems after 30 years of age. Since women have the role of giving childbirth entrusted by the nature, when they develop complications for giving child birth, most of them become unmarriageable. Ailing parents and the responsibility to take care of them for single children makes it even more difficult.
Vedic India, had entrusted women with the role they were given by mother nature, to produce off-springs so that the human race survived. Vedic India also advised women to have a lot of children – ‘शत पुत्रबति भबः‘ (give birth to hundred children) was a blessing given to women by elders. This was because one other principle of Vedic India was
‘Women should be taken care in their childhood by their father, in their youth by their husband and in their old age by their sons’.
This blessing of women to have as many children as possible was to ensure their safety and well-being at all ages. In this aspect in fact Vedic India had entrusted boys (and not girls) with the responsibility to take care of their mothers.
The question however, that feminists often bring is by confining women to their homes and giving them the huge BURDEN to raise children, it was the men who wanted to enjoy life and all benefits of life. However, this is not true. The main idea was to ensure survival of human race and to give the human race healthy new generations. Vedic society was all the more protective to women and kept them in house to protect them from being sinful. That way children learnt the best possible behavior and became the best possible habitats of this world.
If we look at today’s society, women with single or no child have no one to take care of them in older days. Feminist women often end up in lonely life. Feminists, however created another avenue for women to earn money on every divorce. But money can’t win anyone’s love and hence many of them may have money after several divorces but have no one to take care of them.
So, in our modern system of late marriage, we are neither getting strong generation of children, nor stable marriages (because people develop a lot of expectations before they marry). Vedic Indian society has created an immune system to all these social evils by organizing social customs according to the need of human race and not anyone’s right (no, not even in favour of men’s rights). Thus, they had created a far more evolved and matured society. By upholding single person’s rights today, we are creating an increasingly fragmented society without any love, care and social belongingness. Which is slowly and steadily decaying the society and eventually the human race.