Need Help: A Question on Daughters, Hinduism, Gender and Religion
Long-time readers of my blog would remember a post I had carried on in 2009 – in response to a query from an eager student of Hinduism on why higher caste, saintly people and gods/goddesses were predominantly painted using bright colours in Indian art? The eager student was Owen Slavin. In my response to him I wrote that his queries may be more easily resolved if I post them on my blog – since there would be many readers far better-read and well-versed in Indian sacred literature and art history than me. The result was this post: Question on Indian Art. Last week, Owen wrote to me once again. This time with the following question (emphasis added):
..There is an expression in India that to have a daughter is like watering your neighbors garden. The result of this is a poorer life outcome for women in terms of health (physical/psychological), materially and in terms of education. Women feel like and are treated as second-class citizens. Young girls especially feel under-valued and unwanted. This made me think of what role religion may have had in determining this negative view.
I was recently reading both the Guru Gita and The Crest Jewel of Wisdom (Shankara). The former which promised like many other prayers do, that if one recites it then you willbe granted “sons and grandsons”. In the latter (Adi) Shankara states “For all beings a human birth is difficult to obtain, more so is a male body…The man who, having by some means obtained a human birth,with a male body and mastery of the Vedas to boot, is foolish enough not to exert himself for self-liberation,verily commits suicide, for he kills himself by clinging to things unreal.” Is this quote of Shankara not being discriminatory here?
…I mentioned this to an Indian friend who told me Krishna apparently had 10 sons for every one daughter, Rama and his brothers and Lord Shiva all had two sons each and no daughters. There are many techniques mentioned in Ayurvedic texts to increase one’s chances of having a son but few methods are described if one wants a daughter.
On the other hand Hinduism has given birth to such powerful and empowered Goddesses such as Durga and Kali.
Please do not think I am being critical but I am just trying to gain an understanding and would be most appreciative if anyone could possible throw some light on the above as I may simply be misinterpreting the texts. I look forward to hearing from you.
Owen’s question is thought-provoking and I intend to do some digging to find out more. In the meantime, I am opening up this post for thoughts and comments from readers – many of whom are more learned, and far more widely read than me.
Separately, I have already pointed Owen in the direction of these 2 excellent guest-posts: Women in Hinduism – Part 1 and Part II by Dr Raju Maliger. Some of you may also find these two (somewhat related) posts interesting: The Last Word on Water.. and a post on the declining sex ratio in India. Look forward to thoughts & comments.