Traditions such as child marriage, ‘sati’, ban on widow remarriage, and illiteracy among women crept into Indian society because of Islamic invasions, RSS joint general secretary Krishna Gopal said on Sunday.
Speaking on women’s empowerment at Delhi University under the aegis of Naari Shakti Sangam, Gopal said before the 12th Century, women were reasonably free and contributed significantly to Indian society. He also warned against Western culture and said managing the kitchen was as important as becoming a scientist.
“Let’s come to the middle ages. It was a very difficult time… the entire country is struggling with subjugation. Temples were broken, universities destroyed and women were in danger. Lakhs of women were kidnapped and sold in international markets. (Ahmed Shah) Abdali, (Mohammed) Ghouri and (Mahmood of) Ghazni had all taken women from here and sold them…. It was an era of great humiliation. So, to protect our women, our own society put multiple restrictions on them,” Gopal said.
According to Gopal, Ram and Krishna were married after reaching a certain age but due to Islamic invaders, child marriage started. He said before Islamic invasions, there was no tradition of ‘sati’ in India.
“To ensure that our girl children were safe, child marriages started. Our country had no ‘satipratha’. There may have been a couple of examples… but (after the advent of Islamic invaders), a large number of women started committing ‘jauhar’, ‘sati’…,” Gopal said, adding there was no restriction on widow remarriage either.
“This is how women gradually became uneducated and traditions such as child marriage crept in. Widow remarriage was stopped and multiple restrictions were put on women. This was an era of society’s degradation,” Gopal said, adding that these restrictions were not our society’s rules, but a measure to deal with “an emergency situation”.
He, however, underlined that despite the restrictions, women played a big role in society between the 12th and 18th centuries.
“In the 13th Century, Sant Ramanand, who had Kabir and Ravidas among his disciples, also had many women disciples who spread Vaishnav thought in a big way. There were so many women in this period who contributed to social reform and became saints,” he said.
Warning against the influence of western culture, Gopal said, “Women of our country have to be careful against western influence… we have to progress… you use technology, fly planes, manoeuvre ships, go to ISRO, become a scientist, doctor or engineer… do whatever you like… but stay a woman. A woman is the pivot of the house, remember that. It is the woman who gives values to children and the family.”
Gopal also underlined how managing the kitchen was as important as managing a career.
“I was reading an article by Sudha Murthy where she said she packs her food and carries it when she travels abroad. She runs Infosys. Today women ask, ‘Is cooking our job?’. By cooking children stay with you, they feel loved. Do you know that Indiraji [former PM] used to manage her kitchen herself. When Nehruji was PM, Indiraji used to control the kitchen,” Gopal said.
He said women were responsible for determining the environment of the house.
“The modern civilisation has given a lot, but also snatched away a few things. We are getting increasingly lonely. People are into depression. Alcohol consumption has increased. We are consuming thrice the amount of alcohol consumed in the US. Who is responsible for this? What should be the environment of our family is something that women have to determine,” Gopal said.
Talking about the high status of women in ancient Indian society, Gopal said as many as 27 women contributed hymns in Rig Veda.
“You want to know about the status of women in India, read our oldest text. We have not been taught this. We have been made to forget our own history. The system of marriage as it exists in India was given by a woman saint. When a woman comes as a daughter-in-law she is called the queen according to our hymns,” he said.
He also said Draupadi was an inspiration for all women as she became the medium of destruction of all those who humiliated her.
“…We have a principle where we see women as mothers. Because it is the finest form of a woman. In the south, even a six-year-old girl is called ‘amma’,” he said.
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