During the golden period of Vedic times, women and men had equal rights in all aspects of life including education and religion. There were great women scholars who mastered the Vedas. In fact, the creation of the Vedas itself was a joint effort of women and men rishis. The Vedas and Upanishads the first and foremost sacred texts of Hinduism mention in detail various rituals involving women, as well as the contributions of women scholars and philosophers of those times.
That time women were treated equal to men, and sometimes they were considered superior to men in many aspects. “Shakti” is feminine word or strength, virility and power in Hindu culture. Shakti is prevailing universal manifestation of the feminine. Hindus worship “Ma Durga” as the goddess of strength, valour and power. Goddess Durga is the mother of the universe and believed to be the power behind the work of creation, preservation, and destruction of the world. In Hindu scriptures and epics, it is mentioned that all male power is derived from this universal power and strength of the feminine principle.
Hindu people worship “Ma Durga” nine consecutive days. They celebrate this longest colourful festival in the form of traditional music and dance in India.
Later history and the creation of the caste system by Manusmriti, the role of women in society degraded completely. Women became subordinate to men; they were always to become in control of men either in the form of a father, husband, brother or son. Women were barred from education and overt religious practices, and their socio-cultural role was also diminished considerably in various ways.
It is ironical that feminine and the women power is worshiped in the form of the goddess whereas actual social situation of women is far inferior and pathetic.
Women and girls make up 60% of the world’s poorest and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate. With education and empowerment, they can lead healthy lives and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
“Each year, millions of women and children die from preventable causes. These are not mere statistics. They are people with names and faces. Their suffering is unacceptable in the 21st century. We must, therefore, do more for the newborn who succumbs to infection for want of a simple injection, and for the young boy who will never reach his full potential because of malnutrition. We must do more for the teenage girl facing an unwanted pregnancy; for the married woman who has found she is infected with the HIV virus; and for the mother who faces complications in childbirth……….” Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary-General