Sexist Samska̅ras

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Grhya Sutras - a section under the Kalpa Sutra collection, which are the addendum texts to Vedic Literature, deal with the various Samskaras of Hindu tradition. Samskaras are specific rituals (more appropriately, rites of passage) that mark important milestones in the lifetime of an individual (in fact, they overflow the exact period of a lifetime just a little bit, as the first Samskara happens before birth and the last just after death).

The pre-natal Samskaras of Garbhadana (at time of conception), Pumsavana (around the 3rd month of pregnancy) and Seemanta (around 8th month of pregnancy) are performed with specific intentions for enhancing the chances of bearing a male offspring.
Subsequently, the important milestone of initiating a child into studies, the Samskara of Upanayana is clearly prescribed only for a male child. Upanayana is supposed to give a second birth for the male child as he starts the first ashrama - Brahmacharya - of his life which subsequently goes into a cycle of 4 ashramas. The female counterpart has no similar ashramic connotations at all. Their presence is only felt in the Grahastha-Ashrama due to their part in marriage, family and procreation. The next two important stages of Vanaprastha and Sanyasa have no female presence. The final funeral rite is also permitted to be performed only by a son and not a daughter. Isn't a female being deserving of a chance to meditate on God or introspect on this universe or even seek the final liberation (moksha)?

There are many such instances spread throughout the Hindu scriptures where the male sex is given clear attributions and assignments but nothing is mentioned about the female counterpart. Is this a deliberate miss, an intentional sidelining of the female sex to show the status of subordination to them? They are not permitted the study the vedas (similar to the restrictions imposed on the Sudras - the lowly castes), all references to the supreme and to various administrative and scholarly attributes are masculine in nature.

The Samskaras are obviously sexist, but are our other scriptures sexist too? Why this discrimination, when Hindu's call themselves one of the most liberal and egalitarian religions of the world? When we blame other major (esp. Semitic) religions of debasing women, how can we accept the authority of Hindu texts which also lack neutrality and universality in their messages?


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