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Women’s Education in India

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In old times, women were considered with dereference and dignity. They were made aware of all areas and had a significant impact on governmental issues and ruling. The arrangement of sati and early marriage was not so common. In the Rig Vedic culture, ladies were worshipped and appreciated, yet they were being victimized in the later Vedic period.

The status of women further encountered a decay with the pervasiveness of child marriage, sati, polygamy, and the purdah system. Not only women but the state of low-class people in ancient India was horrible. The caste system still plays a vital role in today’s society and its roots can be traced back millions of years. Brahmins were the supreme power in ancient India. The society was divided into 4 varnas based on the occupation of people and their birth. Thus caste system deprived the poor of many facilities and basic essentials, they were always subjected to the upper-class orders and worked for them at the cost of their self-esteem, just to have 3 meals a day.

Position of Women in contrast to Men at the end of the Vedic Period

By the end of the Vedic period, women were denied social, cultural, and religious freedoms. They were not permitted to partake in administrative and governmental aspects. Progressively, the place of women declined so much that the birth of a girl child was viewed as a misfortune. Women were only treated as domestic workers. The role of a mother was only to bring up the child teaching moral values, and the role of a wife was only to look after and take care of her husband and in-laws, they were not allowed in decision-making scenarios. They were not given the right to inherit their father’s or husbands’ property which made them economically dependent on men.

Men were put in a very powerful position by the end of the Vedic period, they were accepted as the true successors of the family. The way of thinking of the man-centric family depends on the rule that the genealogical record grows up with the male. The property was inherited only by the men in the family and the elder son took the responsibility for the family after the father.

The phase of Women’s Education in  India

Formal schooling was given to young ladies and women, they were expected to present the mantras or the stanzas with clearness and proficiency. In ancient India, women were given equal opportunities as men in educational institutions but this privilege end very soon and women were only exposed to domestic work and family responsibilities. They were sent to schools, instead, they were trained to do household work. Women who tried to overcome these barriers were cursed and got abandoned by society. Thus, women became unaware of issues taking part in society and lacked knowledge of men.

Working towards reforms

Social reformers played a very important role in changing the status of women in India. They were the backbone of reforms made to help women to cope with the difficulties they were facing. They were the voice behind innocent women getting ached under the name of sati. Social reformers had faith in the guidelines of individual freedom, opportunity, and equality of all people independent of sex, caste creed, or religion. They went after various conventional, tyrant, and progressive social establishments and sent off friendly changes and developments to free the Indian women from their shack­les.

One such reformer was Raja Rammohan Roy, he was very particularly against sati and stood by the side of widow women. He was well-versed in Sanskrit and Persian and tried to influence people with his writings finally in 1829 due to his continuous efforts sati was banned. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was another reformer who further helped widows for the betterment of their lives, he suggested and proved that there isn’t any ancient text mentioning that widows can’t remarry. He raised his voice for the remarriage of women. Veeresalingam Pantulu was inspired by the idea of remarriage of Ishwar chandra Vidyasagar and took forward the movement for widow remarriage.

Reforms towards the education of women

Educating girls was considered a burden and useless as it would take them away from domestic work. But many reformers struggled for women’s education and the abolition of child marriage.

Arya Samaj in Punjab and Jyotirao Phule established schools for girls in Maharashtra. In Patna and Calcutta, Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain started schools for Muslim girls. Thus slowly with the support from reformers, omen started entering universities for higher education and some even started working as teachers, doctors, and lawyers.

Caste System in India

The foundation for caste system was classifying people into varnas based on their occupation. Ancient India witnessed four major varnas namely Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudras.

  • Brahmins were people who were involved in religious works. They worked as priests in temples and few brahmins were also appointed as chief advisors of kings. Kings always used to follow the words of brahmins ,brahmins were given supreme power in decision making and they held a very important position in ancient Indian society.
  • Kshatriyas were the ruling community in ancient India .They hold the second highest position and they were mainly warriors and aristocracy. They are supposed to develop characteristics of dauntlessness, strength, valor and liberality.
  • Vaishyas are the third of the four social groups of ancient India.Vaishyas are those people who belong to working class ,they were involved in agriculture, trade and commerce.
  • Sudras are the fourth and most deprived varna. They were considered as untouchables and are not allowed into temples .They were alienated from the village and also not allowed to drink water from the wells in village. The state do sutras was very horrible in ancient India

Reforms in Caste system in India

The leatherworkers of Central India known as Ghasidas organized a movement named Satnami movement for the improvement of their social status. Haridas Thakur’s Matua was a  reformer who questioned the ancient brahmin based society and fought for equality of all.

“Oru jati, oru matam, oru daivam manushyanu”  goes the popular saying of Shri Narayana Guru which means One caste, one religion, one god for humankind. Throughout his entire life he strived for equality of humankind. Dr B R Ambedkar is a well known leader and the father of Indian constitution ,he worked for the untouchables and started many movements for the entry of untouchables into temples and for the access of drinking water from wells. Finally in 1950 Indian Constitution legally abolished untouchability. Women empowerment and removal of caste based discrimination are the two main concerns which are to be answered by the independent India as early as possible. Government has comeup with many reforms and laws but it should come up naturally from the people to treat women and all races ,color ,caste people equally.

Sample Questions

Question 1 : Differentiate between Caste and Varna?


Caste Varna
Caste is the classification of people based on birth. Varna is the classification of people based on occupation.
There are many number of castes. Majorly there are four varnas.
Relatively talent and knowledge based classification. Classified based on birth and rigid principles.

Question 2: Is caste system restricted only to India? Discuss.


No, caste system is not confined only to India ,many countries like Nepal,Pakistan, Korea,Sri Lanka also witness Caste system. But in India caste system has its roots traced from millions of years unlike other countries. In India caste is viewed as a cultural phenomenon but in other countries it is considered as a structural phenomenon.

Question 3: Describe about the Non Brahmin Movement lead as a part of removal of caste based discrimination in India?


The Non brahmin movement was started by those people of low class who were educated and were willing to bring reforms in the society for the development of their community.E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker ,popularly known as Periyar was one such reformer who fought for equality under the movement. He was a member of INC who raised voice on the seating based discrimination in INC conferences. He was also a critic of ancient holy texts like Ramayana and Mahabharata which portray the supremacy of Brahmins.

Question 4: Write about the contribution of Pandita Ramabai in educating women?


Pandita Ramabai, an incredible researcher of Sanskrit, felt that Hinduism was severe towards women, and composed a book about the hopeless existences of upper-station Hindu women. She established a widows’ home at Poona to give sanctuary to widows who had been dealt with seriously by their spouses’ family members. Here women were prepared so they could uphold themselves monetarily. Thus she helped widow women to change their lives.

Question 5:  What were the problems faced by women in post Vedic period?


Women were not given access to education ,they always played the role as a subject to men.Women were confined to domestic works and family takecare.Women were forced to jump into the fire when their husbands were dead in the name of holy practice of sati.Women were married at a very young age and were sent to martial homes where they were supposed to take care of the family.

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Last Updated : 31 Jul, 2022
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