Hinduism recognizes women as an essential piece of the whole. Arthanareeshwarar is a form of Shiva and Shakthi appearing as halves merged into one - showing that male and female have equal status. Navrathri is a festival entirely dedicated to women and exists for women fellowship in society.
Women were known- as Rishikas or Brahmavadinis [Rig Veda]. 17 prominent are Romasa, Lopamudra, Apata, Kadru, Vishvavara, Ghosha, Juhu, Vagambhrini, Paulomi, Jarita, Shraddha-Kamayani, Urvashi, Sharnga, Yami, Indrani, Savitri and Devayani. Gargi, the wife of Yagnavalkya was learned in Vedas. Similarly the Sama Veda was revealed to 4 Rishikas. Even during sri.Acharya Sankara's period, Bharathi wife of Mandan mishra was appointed as Judge in the discussion
The present day discrimination against women and others is to dominate the scene by selected group.
Role of Women
Women decorate their homes, welcoming Shakthi, Lakshmi and Saraswathi into their homes - celebrating them for nine days. Every woman goes through three stages in life.
First - Kanniga - a virgin endowed with all the qualities, playfulness, attractive form, quest for knowledge, courage and beauty combined - personified as Durga.
When the girl grows up and marries she becomes the wealth and center of the household - the source of well being and satisfaction, maintaining the home and caring for all within it. Now she is Lakshmi for that home.
When the woman ages and crosses middle age she becomes filled with wisdom and learning, fulfils the role of teaching the younger generation and guide them into being good Hindus. She is now adept and well versed in the Hindu texts and rules and is able to be an example and leader for the household. Now she is Saraswathi.
So Navarathri celebratNavarathries the three forms of womanhood as Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi. Children participate in decorating the home, setting up idols and other statues depicting scenes and characters in the epics and vedas, incorporating local flora and fuana, decorations , vocational figures. Everyday women get dressed up in beautiful clothes, visit each other's homes, exchange gifts and delicacies, sing hymns and felicitate each other.
Avaiyar (meaning a very Old mother) was one of the very great women poets of ancient Tamil. There may be many avaiyars, poetess, saint, siddhar, story teller and social reformer. Vinayagar Agaval is a hymn in praise of the Lord Ganesha, by the great female Tamil Chola era, poetess cum siddhar Avaiyar. It clearly brings out the mastery of Avaiyar in the Yoga, tantric practices and Saivism, possibly derived from the contribution of Sidhas in Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Nadu Saivism.
BhArathiyAr on Women issues
It is surprising and indeed shameful that in a country where women were worshipped as the all powerful Sakthi (சக்தி), they were relegated to a lower status in social life. BhArathiyAr was one of the earliest champions of women's cause in the Thamizh region. Thanks to his outbursts, there had been a social awakening on this issue, though much is yet to be done. In the following poem, BhArathiyAr employs the folk dance, kummi (கும்மிi) and speaks out clearly the problems as he saw them:
ஏட்டையும் பெண்கள் தொடுவது தீமையென்
றெண்ணி யிருந்தவர் மாய்ந்து விட்டார்
வீட்டுக்குள்ளே பெண்ணைப் பூட்டி வைப்போ மென்ற
விந்தை மனிதர் தலை கவிழ்ந்தார் (கும்மியடி)
மாட்டை யடித்து வசக்கித் தொழுவினில்
மாட்டும் வழக்கத்தைக் கொண்டு வந்தே
வீட்டினி லெம்மிடங் காட்ட வந்தாரதை
வெட்டி விட்டோ மென்று கும்மியடி கும்மியடி
பட்டங்க ளாள்வதுஞ் சட்டங்கள் செய்வதும்
பாரினிற் பெண்கள் நடத்த வந்தோம்
எட்டு மறிவினி லாணுக்கிங்கே பெண்
இளைப் பில்லை காணென்று கும்மியடி (கும்மியடி)
காத லொருவனைக் கைப்பிடித்தே யவன்
காரியம் யாவினுங் கைகொடுத்து
மாதர றங்கள் பழமையைக் காட்டிலும்
மாட்சி பெறச்செய்து வாழ்வமடி (கும்மியடி)
Recognizing that the best way to introduce social changes was to plant the seeds of reforms in the minds of children who have not yet been corrupted by traditions and superstitions, Following the footsteps of ouvaiyAr, (ஓளவையார்) BhArathiyAr reiterated moral and ethical principles in a simple format appealing to young minds.
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