Woman's Status In Ancient Sindh & India

by Dina U. Mehta


Dina Mehta is a versatile writer who has written books and whose articles appear in major papers in United States. This article was kindly submited by Shankar Keswani.

Bhagwan S. Gidwani's 'Return of the Aryans' is regarded by many as an authentic and fundamental contribution to historical literature of Sindh and India. This book, written in novel form, tells the fascinating story of how, in 5,000 BC, the Aryans originated from India, their trials and triumphs in Europe and elsewhere; and finally their return to the home-town and heritage of India. To tell the story of Aryans, the book unfolds, the drama of India's civilization back to its roots prior to 8,000 BC, and presents glimpses of art, culture, philosophical thought, and spiritual values of pre-history India. The book also shows that the birth and beginning of Hinduism took place along the Sindhu River, well before 8,000 BC, and that Sindh was a major home-ground of Aryans when they left in 5,000 BC for distant lands including, Iran, Eygpt, Russia, Finland, Lithuania, Scandinavia, Greece, Italy and Germany.
With monumental research, this book demolishes the theory of the Aryan invasion of India, and shows that Aryans were born, grew up, lived and died as Hindus, anchored in the timeless faith of Sanatana Dharma. With equal clarity, it demolishes the theory of North/South Divide, and shows how the people of Sindhu, Ganga, Madhya, Bangla and other regions were together with the Dravidian region, in a spirit of equality and mutual respect, as parts of Bharat Varsha (India).

Women of Fame and Honor
�Return of the Aryans' (published by Penguin Books in Canada and India - Book No.0-14-024053-5) is all the more remarkable for its glimpses into high status of women in ancient Sindh and India. Piling fact upon fact, Gidwani shows that women were equal, if not ahead, in all important spheres of activity, including civic affairs, politics, administration, poetry, art, philosophy, architecture, education and justice system. Women held positions of prominence and honour, in ancient parliament and councils of India, not on basis of any quota but by sheer merit.

The book has fascinating stories of many women who,from 8,000 to 5,000 BC achieved fame and honour, for instance, Devi Leilama, who was the first to establish Guilds in India, and was Supreme Chief of the Sindhu Clan in 5,333 BC; of Dhanawantri, who along with her husband Sage Dhanawantar, was the foremost physician and surgeon in Sindh in 5,000 BC., and whose fame had spread all over Bharat Varsha . Also, it was a woman (Leelavati) who, in 6,000 BC, established mathematical lore in India, leading eventually to formulation of decimal system in later centuries. There are also stories of women who led Aryan contingents in foreign countries.

Is God He? or She?
'Return of the Aryans' also explains about the decision that consort of a God be named ahead of that God - for instance, Radhe Shyam, Sita Ram. Similarly, it shows how ancients often referred to God not as 'He' but 'She'. Thus the ancient prayer of 5,000 BC, at most ceremonies, would be recited as follows:
Let us think of the splendor
Of Her that is One-Supreme,
She that is one without second,
That She may inspire our minds,
Our words, thoughts and deeds.

To Her who is the unending Time,
To Her who is without beginning,
To Her, who is without end
To Her, who began it all
To Her, who is the seed of all
To Her, who is the source of all
And to Her, who alone is the Self
That She may inspire us, together, all, all.
In the innermost heart of all,
To her, our prayer, our devotion, our love
(Page 70, �Return of the Aryans�)
(Author Gidwani clarifies that this reference to God, as 'She' or 'Her' was purely and simply a matter of linguistic convenience; and the belief clearly was that She is the Universal God who Herself is the universe, being both the Creator and the Creation; and thus She is the woman, She is the man, She the youth, She the maiden, She the infant, She the old, for She includes in Her own being the entire universe).

Bridegroom's Promises & Vows
'Return of the Aryans' describes marriage customs of ancient Sind and India, whereby a bridegroom in 6,000 BC would take a five-fold marriage-vow to offer his wife Permanence, Piety, Pleasure, Property, and Progeny. Do such bridegrooms exist anymore?

Discrimination against Men?
If there was discrimination in those pre-Vedic times (from 8,000 BC), it was perhaps against men; for instance, men were to retire as hermits at the age of 60, while a woman was free from such disability. For justification of this custom, author Gidwani quotes Karkarta Bharat (Supreme Chief of Sindhu Clan and the Founder of Bharat Varsha in 5060 BC). Said Bharat:

" A woman cannot be asked to retire because her work never ceases. From being a wife, she moves smoothly, selflessly into role of a mother and grandmother, giving all of herself in the service of generations that follow, until her dying day. Man's tragedy, on the other hand, is that he lives for himself, with his ego centered around his own self, and if he loves his children, he loves them merely as extensions of himself; and the older he grows, the more demanding he gets, with his ideas fixed and mind closed. All that grows within him is lust for power, while his advancing age renders him incapable of wielding it honourably. Happiness for man depends on what he could get; for a woman, on what she could give. Retirement at the age of sixty was, therefore, intended to save man from himself and also to protect society."
(Page 6, Return of the Aryans)

Slanders against Women
None can fail to be impressed with the quotation in 'Return of the Aryans' of Hermit Parikshahari who in 5,030 BC declared that a woman, whose virtue or chastity is questioned, must walk 10 steps through fire to prove her innocence, but only after the slanderer had gone 30 steps through fiercely burning fire to show that he had honest grounds and honourable motives for making such a charge. Thus, 'Trial by Fire' was to be undergone only by the dishonest slanderer (and not by the woman slandered), as such a slanderer would not survive his thirty steps through raging fire. Pity that Hermit Parikshahari's Verdict is not being followed while judging slanders against women! Pity also, that it was not followed in Ramayana while judging slanders against Sita!

'God created the Universe, but before Him was She - the Mother'
On the question, "Who created the universe and who created God?" �Return of the Aryans� quotes Sindhu Putra, the spiritual leader of 5,000 BC, to reply, "God created the Universe, but before Him was She - the Mother". But then this reply is not substantially different from the Hymn of Creation as it was known in Bharat Varsha in pre-Vedic times, which 'Return of the Aryans' quotes as under:

Hymn of Creation:

'Then nothingness was not, nor existence then,
Nor air nor depths nor heavens beyond their ken
What covered it? Where was it? In whose Keeping ?
In unfathomed folds, was it cosmic water seeping ?

'Then there was no life, no birth, no death,
Neither night nor day nor wind nor breath,
At last One sighed - a self sustained Mother,
There was that one then - and none other.

'Then there was darkness wrapped in darkness;
Was this unlit water, unseen, dry, wetless ?
That one which came to be, enclosed in naught,
Arose, who knows, how, from the power of what !

'But after all who knows and who can say
Who, how, why, whence began creation's day ?
Gods came after creation did they not ?
So who knows truly, whence it was wrought!_.

'Does that first mother herself know, now?
Did she create or was herself created somehow;
She, who surveys form the heavens, above us all,
She knows - or maybe She knows not at all.

'Did she herself create the one god !
And gladly gave him the Creators rod !
But so re- fashioned Time and Space
That he was more, and She was less ?
'Did she turn future into past ?
So He came first and She was last!

'But surely, She told Him all, all!
Then how could He not know at all?

'Or perhaps He knows it not, and cannot tell
Oh! He knows, He knows, but will not tell...'
(Pages 124 &125, �Return of the Aryans�)

With certain adaptations and variations, this pre-ancient song also appears in the Rig Veda -'Hymn of Creation'--X:129. There are however some surprisingly notable differences between this song and the Rig Vedic hymn. In particular, the Rig Veda does not refer to:

- Creation of the First Mother
- First Mother as the Creator of the One God
- Future turning into the past
- Time and space being re-fashioned by First Mother, so that She
becomes less and last, while God becomes more and first.

(It has not been possible to discover how certain elements of this pre-ancient song, which was sung at least upto 5,122 BC, came to be omitted in the Rig Veda, which according to author Gidwani, was composed around 4600 BC).

A Note of Caution: It would be a mistake to assume that the ancients accepted the above Hymn or even the various prayer songs literally. Spiritually and philosophically, the ancients were ahead of the modern generation; they employed allegory, imagery, figurative speech and abstract concepts and ideas liberally, but there was no question that anyone in those times would actually confuse the Creator with the form of She or He. References to God as She, or the First Mother having preceded Him, were simply intended to emphasize the notion that amongst the greatest attributes of God were His love and compassion - qualities which are more noticeable in a woman and a Mother than in males. For the rest, it was clearly recognized that the Creator (being also the Creation) was of 'formless form'. Many poems come to us from ancient times to explain the impossibility of describing the form of the Absolute. For instance:

"There the eye goes not,
Nor mind nor thought;
We know not, understand not;
Nor whence, why and what!

"How could I teach
By thought or speech
What I know not!

"Yet who knows!
In absolute silence,
With silent footsteps
The Absolute may arrive
To dwell for ever
Where He always dwelt -
In your self.

"Where else!
Then you must know
Yes, you shall know"

(Page 126, �Return of the Aryans�)

(The thought in the first two paragraphs of the above pre-ancient poem appears also in the later Kena Upanishad -II:3. However, the Upanishad does not include the hope expressed in the last two paragraph of this poem. Even so, the poem explains the impossibility of describing the form of the Absolute, which is attainable only in silence - the silence of within).

Question for Today
Return of the Aryans has many other examples of the high status and image enjoyed by women in ancient Sindh and India. It however remains to be explained how and why, in later times, the chauvinist males succeeded in downgrading Indian women and womanhood by introducing Sati, Dowri, and a thousand social disabilities for the female sex. Actually, the challenge is greater than merely explaining how the degradation of women took place in the Indian society. The larger question is: How did India with its great and glorious past come to the present sorry stage? - communal disharmony, clamour for separation & secession, riots, corruption, poverty, disease, disrespect for parents, and loss of family values.

'Return of the Aryans' is certainly a great novel, powerfully presented, with deep and enduring insights into our ancient culture. Every parent should present the lessons from this saga to his children, so that they understand what their ancient heritage is. Our children must learn what their roots were, and they must also realize that a society that fails to respect its women may have had a great past, but it can never have a great future, unless it mends its ways.

- Note 1. Bhagwan S. Gidwani's 'Return of the Aryans' is published by Penguin Books, India (Book No. ISBN 0-14-024053-5) and has been reprinted twice this year.
- Note 2: The above article may be freely reproduced fully or partly without permission

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