Women and spirituality

What exactly is the nexus or connection between spirituality and women who constitute almost half of the population?

Sacred Hindu women have been given titles like Grihalakshmi, Dharmapathi and Arthangini, which all imply women are the better (and certainly not bitter!) halves of their husbands, and thereby profess to them undying love and devotion. Women are considered as harbingers of their family’s happiness, security and prosperity, and therefore, it is incumbent on them to practise spiritual lives of prayer and ethical living. It is no less a person than Mahatma Gandhi who said, “When you educate a man, you educate an individual, but when you educate a woman you educate a family.”

Parvati asked Easwara whether there was any way to ensure Hindu women’s auspiciousness and purity in order for them to lead long, happy and healthy lives? Easwara replied that one of the methods is for them to chant the Varalakshmi Vrata every day. The Varalakshmi Vrata is a powerful modus operandi for Hindu women as it helps them in protecting their husbands from harm and danger and ensures that the husbands live long and happy lives. It also gives women strength and helps them to remain chaste.Indeed, Savitri, Chandramati, Sumati, Anasuya and Damayanti are some of the venerable Hindu women who have regularly chanted the Varalakshmi Vrata and thus have been blessed by Goddess Lakshmi (Consort of Vishnu and Goddess of Wealth). When Hindu women are faced with any form of ignominy, danger or threat, this Vrata helps them find a solution or a way out of the impasse. It strengthens them and gives them extraordinary courage and fortitude. When Savitri chanted this Vrata, she was able to bring her dead husband back to life. Damayanti reduced an evil-minded hunter to ashes with the power of her chastity.
Sumati’s case is also outstanding. A sage told Sumati that her husband would die at sunrise the following day. Sumati became so distraught at this news that she began to pray that if her thoughts and actions were sacrosanct, then the sun should not rise the next day. Indeed, as per Sumati’s prayer, the sun did not rise, plunging the whole world into darkness. Only when Sumati was assured of her husband’s safety, did she relent, bringing life back to normal.

Perhaps, the most outstanding example of the power of this Vrata has been experienced by Sita when she came home to Rama. Rama asked Sita to undertake the agni pareeksha (the test of fire) for she has been abducted and kept captive by Ravana for 10 months in Lanka. Though Ram was confident and assured of Sita’s chastity, he decided to make her undergo the test in order to dispel doubts from the minds of the people. Sita, as expected, emerged from the test, unscathed, thus proving her chastity.

Sathya Sai Baba, in his book, said, “Women of nobility and character are least perturbed by the criticism of evil-minded people. Will the cuckoo stop singing just because the crows are cawing?” An important question we must ask ourselves.

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