The Vedic Period was a crucial period in the development of Indian civilization and culture. It arose from a simple system of a complex society, much like all other civilizations. There are four main Vedas available to provide light on society, which are mainly religious scriptures that also remark on many areas of society such as political, economic, and more.
They wrote Samhitas of Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda, and Sama Veda during the later Vedic Period when society became more complicated due to the shift to a completely rural civilization. The texts that were created were also intricate, with special rites and procedures.
Women in the Vedic and the Post-Vedic Periods
In general, the Vedic Period was a very advanced period. Women and men were on an equal footing. This was due to a complicated system in place at the time. As a result, husband and wife’s political rights were shared in a pair. Even larger bodies like the senate (Sabha) and the government followed this policy (Samiti).
Many upper-class women would hold Swayamwars to select the husband of their choosing. Despite the fact that both parties consented, marriage remained a major event.
Women in the post-Vedic period had equal rights. The woman in the Vedic period most likely degraded as a result of the entrance of a non-Aryan marriage. The non-Aryan wives were unfamiliar with Vedic rituals. In different religious acts, they were unable to associate with their Aryan husbands. The Aryan spouses, too, eventually lost many of the benefits they had previously enjoyed.
The daughters were eventually denied formal education. Girls’ marriageable ages were reduced to 8 or 10 years. As a result, the number of pre-puberty marriages soared, and child-wives with little education became the norm. Women in the post-Vedic Period were asked for dowry, and being a widow was not always a bad thing, but widow remarriage was not always encouraged.
Role and Status of Women in The Rig Vedic and Later-Vedic period
Role and status in Early Rig Vedic Period:
- Women were highly regarded and had positions of power in society. Gods, according to Aryans, exist where women are valued.
- Women were allowed to take part in both home and religious rites.
- Unmarried women were required to attend school since only educated women were capable of performing Vedic ceremonies correctly. Women were permitted to participate in the Upanayana (educational entrance rite) process.
- After the age of 16, women were allowed to marry and have the right to choose their life partners. They are also permitted to perform or organize their sawambar.
- Child marriage was unheard of, and Sati pratha was rare. Even though it was a patriarchal culture, there were provisions in the early Vedic civilization for adult marriage, marriage at will, and widow remarriage.
Role and Status of Women in Later Rig Vedic Period:
- The position of women in the later Rig Vedic period changed for unclear reasons.
- Scholars argue that social engagement with newer cultures pushed individuals to place limitations on women based on specific criteria. During this time, it became a harsh patriarchal culture in which women’s rights were seized.
- Religion was the primary reason for these limits on women, and as a result, many of their rights, such as the ability to marry at will and the right to education, were revoked.
- Her marriage age was lowered, and she was regarded as a regenerative instrument.
- Her social mobility dwindled as limits were placed on her; she was not permitted to leave the four walls of her home and was forced to stay at home and work as a housewife. Widow remarriage was forbidden, and widows were compelled to live as widows. The purdah system became prevalent.
- The number of children married was at an all-time high.
Equal Educational Opportunities for Women
Women’s education opportunities were equal to men’s in the later Vedic Period. It was seen as critical. This only began to fade after 200 B.C.E., and it lasted for centuries beyond that, long after the Vedic Period, which is estimated to have ended around 600 B.C.E.
Throughout the later Vedic Period, both girls and boys were sent to educational institutes called Gurukulas, where they all observed the Brahmacharya Ashrama of student life before marriage, learning a variety of subjects. In order to be eligible for Upanayanam, women were encouraged to be proficient in philosophy, logic, and Vedic knowledge, as well as to sing Rig Veda slokas. Women were more likely than men to study the Atharva Veda.
There was also a system of homeschooling for women, which was far more common among the lower classes who couldn’t afford to travel or live away from home for long periods of time. As a result, daughters, like their brothers, often supported their dads with agricultural work, learning to milk cows, cut yarn, knit, and sew, as well as being proficient in artistic arts like dancing, painting, and drawing. Texts like the Taittiriya Sanhita and the Satapatha Brahmana emphasized women’s practical education.
It is hardly an exaggeration to argue that women have never had such a high social status as they had during the Rigvedic Period (1500–1000 BC). Women had the same status as men. Women were the mistresses of the house and held a high position in the family.
The prestige and dignity of women declined in the later Vedic Period. The birth of a son was desired, whereas the birth of a daughter was viewed as a sign of sadness. Participation in political gatherings ceased. Child marriage, the sati system, and dowry started increasing.