World History AP
Roles and Attitudes of Women in India Since the Vedic age to the Gupta Period, the perspective of a model woman has been either changed or continued from the past. Some attitudes and roles of women from the Vedic age,
1500 BCE – 500 CE, carried into the Gupta Period, 322 BCE – 185 CE while others have altered. Change and continuity are two fundamentals of time. Continuity is “the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.” Change is to “make or become different.” As time progressed from the Vedic age to Gupta Period, the roles and attitudes of women have changed a little but have also continued through the decades.
The responsibilities and stance in society by women have changed over the years. In the Vedic age, women had more freedom to do as they wished than in the Gupta Period. “In Vedic times, women and men were equal as far as education and religion was concerned. Women participated in the public sacrifices alongside men (Doc A).” Women were treated as the same as men in almost all aspects of society including politics, education, and beliefs. In the Gupta Period, although the women were permitted to receive higher schooling, they were excluded from contributing in political activities of nation. The Vedic custom has held a high view for the traits of women, and has kept the utmost respect within its custom as seen in the tribute it gives for the
Goddess, who is portrayed as the womanly personification of significant qualities and powers.
These forms include those of Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and queen of Lord Vishnu,
Sarasvati the goddess of knowledge, Subhadra Krishna’s sister and auspiciousness embodied,
Durga the goddess of strength and power, Kali the power of time, and other Vedic goddesses that demonstrate inner strength and divine characteristics. “It is a culture whose only words for strength and power are feminine – ‘Shakti’ means ‘power’ and ‘strength’. All male power comes from the feminine. Literary evidence suggests that kings and towns were destroyed because a single woman was wronged by the state (Doc A).” In the Vedic age, if a woman was violated or mistreated in any way or form, the accused was punished severely. Women were meant to be kept safe and away from harm. However the Gupta Period had a different idea toward punishment for women. “For holding conversation in suspicious places, whips may be substituted for fines. In the center of the village, an outcaste person may whip may such women five times on each of the sides of their body (Doc B).” The Guptas believed it was acceptable for a woman to be whipped even though she is meant to keep sacred. The moral fiber of a woman was viewed differently in the Vedic age and the Gupta Period.
Despite of the differences of the Vedic age and the Gupta Period, women have continued their position and standpoint in culture throughout the years. If a man and woman wish to marry, she must have permission from her father. “When Shakuntala urges the king to wait until her father returns, so he might agree to the marriage […] (Doc C).” In the Vedic age, when the king asks
Shakuntala’s hand in marriage, she says she has to wait for her father to come back and agree to the marriage. “Of these, the first four