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Women’s roles in Hinduism

Women in all societies through history have tried to gain a greater role in their community, religion, or country. Women have done the same in Hinduism, though their roles have been laid out in texts such as the Laws of Manu and the Dharma-Sastras. The Laws of Manu, also known as Manusmrti, are a set of basic principles stating how one should lead a dharmic life. The Dharma-Sastras explain one’s religious and legal duties. These texts were followed more strictly many years ago, but their prominence has declined over time due to circumstance. Nevertheless, there are some principles people inevitably still follow.

Unlike many western religions, Hinduism is not just a religion but also a way of life. Family plays an important role in people’s lives and as the keeper of the household, a woman’s role would be vital in the tradition. According to Hinduism, a woman is a form of energy, shaktiswarupini, or an aspect of Shakti. She has three roles of being a child, wife, and mother. As a child she is kanya, the goddess Durga. As a wife she is pathni and sahadharmacharini, a partner in her husband’s religious duties. As a mother she is a devi, the auspicious one, and is worthy of worship (matrudevobhava). Historically, the female life cycle in Hinduism has been different from that of males. In the classical, medieval and most of the modern periods, females have followed a three-stage pattern. The Laws of Manu specify that a woman should be adorned and honored be her father, brother, son, and brother-in-law if they sought for their own welfare. It declares “Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased. Where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards.” In those days, women were required to be present at the time of a religious ritual, though they would not officially take part in the service. Manu goes on to say “Day and night, women must be kept dependent to the males of their families. Her father protects her in childhood. Her husband protects her in youth. Her sons protect her in old age. A woman is never fit for independence.” In this last judgment, Manu implies the three-stages of a woman’s life and how she must be under their watchful eyes at any point during her life.

The woman’s main duties come when she is at the wife and mother stage. As a wife, a Hindu woman was expected to live up to the ideals of the Sthri-Dharma, the duties of the good wife. She is to revere her husband as the Lord. Her responsibilities are to bear his children and educate them in their traditional practices. She must serve him, follow him, and only after he eats may she eat. She shares his karma and destiny. For this reason she sometimes fasts, and goes on pilgrimages to ensure her husband’s long life and success. If he dies prematurely, it was often regarded as her responsibility or her bad karma. The husband in turn should provide his wife any material needs, security, and social status. He must also regard her as a goddess. This reinforces Manu’s statement “Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased.”  In Hindu culture, the mother is the very embodiment of love, sacrifice, selfless service to her children, and of forbearance. She is considered the first teacher of every child, and is regarded as the highest Guru. Her role as a mother is primarily devoted to the upbringing of her children and ensuring their comfort. She is also busy in up keeping the household. Her duties interlace with those of being a wife. The importance of the mother in the family is greater than anything other. Hindu scriptures say “The mother must be served by her son even if she is deemed an outcast in the society.” This embodies her significance in one’s life. Motherhood is one of the most important parts of being a woman and it is after being a mother you experience not only the wide variety of emotions but also achieve your full potential.

In a changing world, Hindu society is trying to redefine the role of women in the institution of family and society. Unlike the customs back then, women today have more freedom starting at a very young age. They are not put under the same pressures for certain services that do not fit the modern society. Women are showing a greater representation in politics and science today than they did years ago. This is also due to the fact that women are eligible to the same education men are and no gender segregations are present. Hindu women have enjoyed the rights they have received and are treated better than women in other religions. Although a few duties Hindu women have that may seem a bit extreme, the acknowledgment they receive as a mother compensates for all of those discomforts. It is understandable that today not all the roles are being carried out to their extremities. They are followed up to a certain extent until which they seem unreasonable to most people. It is said that a dharmic person is one who carries out all their duties throughout the duration of their life. Therefore, Hinduism gives a fulfilling life for a woman who follows these essential roles.

Submitted by Ramya Gopalakrishnan

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What I love about the mridangam

Mridangam is an Indian classical instrument that is believed to have originated in South India, very early on in history. It is a sacred instrument of Hinduism and is played by many Hindu gods, including Ganesha and Nandi. Although the Mridangam is a very popular instrument back home in India, many kids now a days are straying away from the ideal Indian and are trying to become more of an “American”. It is important to be American, but that doesn’t mean that we have to give up our heritage. There needs to be a resurgence of the classical Indian arts, and that needs to begin with the kannadigan youth. I myself play the mridangam, but I am only few in a land of many. Mridangam has had a very positive influence on my life. Through Mridangam, I have become more socially connected with the community, such as when I go to cultural programs to perform. Going to a program is not just for playing there, but also to interact with others. Also, Mridangam has taught me discipline, determination, and time management skills. By following the tala, or time scale, I have learned to be patient and to follow a set pattern. By constantly trying harder and harder to perfect a new lesson, or a complicated variation, I have learned to never give up. By making sure that I save time everyday just for practicing ( or most days), I have learned to organize my life. Though Mridangam may only be a small aspect of my life, it has had a broader influence that has helped me establish many of my morals. On a lighter note, being a mridangist has its benefits. There is always an aura of respect that I receive when I walk into a cultural function and I am allowed to skip the line when getting food. Mridangam is not only just serious, and should not be taken too seriously. I have met many of my friends from Mridangam class, and still keep in touch with them today, though I do not see them in class anymore. Overall, Mridangam will greatly enhance the abilities of yourself, and of the young ones in your family, and I would highly recommend that the youth of the Kannadigans in New York start looking into not only mridangam, but other aspects of Indian classical music.

Written by Nakul Rao

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My life in carnatic music

I have been learning music for about six years now, and I will try to share how it began and how I decided to take a plunge into the sweet world of music. My journey started a long time ago and I am yet to reach my goal. Or will I? What is my goal? Where do I see myself in this vast ocean? Let’s skip all the minor details and jump straight on to where I am now…

So far, I have learned swaravali varsai, upper sthayi varsai, janti varsai, 13 geethas, 3 swarajathis, and am now in my first varnam. Also, simultaneously, I have nearly finished 40 kritis, which is great progress, 7 kritis per year, as well as the initial lessons, which is everything I learned other than the kritis. Out of the kritis I learned, a majority were from Sri Tyagaraja. Not only did singing change my life, it also changed my personality. I have sung at approximately 20 concerts and have learned a lot from them. Firstly, when I started performing, I was in a rush to get of the stage, because I felt really shy. After my first few concerts, I realized that I enjoyed performing and showing people that I can sing. To go even further, Nakul Rao started accompanying me with his mrudangam for almost every concert. After my 10th concert, I also realized that even the audience enjoyed our concerts. Singing changed my perception of performing.

You may ask: How did you start singing? Well, magical determination. Not really magical, but that is just a way of saying that I was devoted to singing. When I was 5 years old, my mother introduced me to carnatic music, in India. I learned carnatic music for a year before I returned. When I came back to U.S, I learned the basics of Sangeetha from Smt. Ranganayaki Srinivasan. Then I started learning from Smt. Sumathy Haran, known to me as “Sumathi Aunty.” I owe all my thanks to Sumathi Aunty, who has given me most of the musical knowledge I know. I have been learning from her for 5 years. She has taught me all the way from Swaravali varsai to varnams. Also, out of the 40 kritis I know, I have learned 35 from her. I also owe my thanks to my parents, who encouraged me to sing. All-in-all, all I have to say is that singing has changed many aspects of my life in a positive way, and I feel that I was born to sing.

Written by Ankith Kumar

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ಕಿಣಿಕಿಣಿ ಎನ್ನಲಿ ಅನುದಿನವೂ

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ಕಿಣಿಕಿಣಿ ಎನ್ನಲಿ ಅನುದಿನವೂ

Written by Asha Melkote

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