Compiled by Ashutosh Bhardwaj
The editorial in Organiser celebrates the anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s historic speech at Chicago at the World Parliament of Religions. Many perceive this event “as the beginning of Hindu Renaissance”, as Vivekananda’s journey provided “critical insights to social reforms in general and issues related to women empowerment in particular”.
“Vivekananda had a clear sense of nationhood and the nature of his audience”, the editorial notes. When he addressed “his Western disciples”, Vivekananda argued that “the status of women in Bharat” is “superior” “as compared to that in the Western world… The Western ideal of womanhood is wife, while the eastern ideal is mother”. But in India he exposed “the contradictions between theory and practice”. He concluded “that the root cause of our social and national degradation is our treatment of women”. Vivekananda insisted, “Educate your women first… they will tell you what reforms are necessary for them.”
Vivekananda also provided “strong Vedantic foundation of Spiritual Democracy to the idea of man-woman equality,” the editorial notes. “The possibility of a replicable model of sustainable pluralism lies in acceptance and not just tolerance, of the fundamental equality and equal respect for all religions,” it says.
The Organiser’s cover story is on the debate over women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple. “Since time immemorial, women between the ages of 10 and 50 years do not enter the temple, as per the tantrik rituals of that particular temple,” it says, and argues that “the deity of Ayyappa that is consecrated there is a celibate. Hence young women’s presence would not be acceptable to him”.
It lists certain rituals related to the ancient temple that have undergone changes, and notes that some customs “continue to remain the same”. It notes that “the most important factor to consider is the way agitation was built up around this issue (women’s entry).” “Many in Kerala believe that certain elements working on anti-Hindu traditions are behind this. The recent verdict by high court on Haji Ali Durgah is equated with Sabarimala is also not acceptable to many groups,” it says.
“Several young women made an online campaign,” asserting that they are “ready to wait”. “It means they are ready to wait until they turn 50 before going to Sabarimala,” the article notes.
However, senior RSS pracharak Ranga Hari said that “Bharatiya tradition did not discriminate against women since the Vedic times.” “During the Islamic aggression, Hindu women were not safe hence they confined themselves to their homes, and then came the discrimination in rituals,” the article quotes Hari as saying.
An article in Panchjanya explains the Hindu custom of paying offerings to ancestors by performing shraaddh. “The word shraaddh comes from shraddha (faith),” it says and contends that shraadh symbolises displaying faith towards ancestors.
It notes that “1,500 mantras in Vedic literature pertain to shraddha” and says that this indicates the antiquity of the tradition. Shraaddh is also referred to as “kanagat”, which is derived from the word “kanyarkgat”. This word indicates the period when “the sun moves into the kanya raashi (Virgo)”. ‘Such is the significance of shraadhs that it is believed that brave men are not born in places where shraadhs are not performed, the article points out. There are fixed days for performing shraadhs, and in case the date of death is not known, the ritual can be performed on the new moon day of the same month.
“New moon has special significance when it comes to shraadhs,” the article notes and explains, “On this day the abode of the ancestors is very close to us”.
Besides ancestors going back to three generations, shraadhs can be performed for gurus, disciples, friends or any other acquaintance. Only such Brahmins should be invited for performing shraadhs who have knowledge of the Vedas, and are honest, the article notes.