Swami Vivekananda stood for women’s equality. India Then & Now.

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By Sinchana Acharya

Narendra Nath Datta known to the world as Swami Vivekananda is one of the most admired spiritual leaders of India. The world knows him as an inspiring Hindu monk; his motherland regards him as the patriot saint of modern India.  Among the modern Indian reformers and leaders, who stood for complete equality of men and women, the most outstanding was Swami Vivekananda. He was highly sympathetic towards the oppressed position of Indian women and argued for gender equality. It is the Hindu culture and the Vedanta philosophy on which Vivekananda’s position on women is based.  According to Vedanta philosophy, men and women and all beings are divine in their essential nature. In the modern times, the history of women shows that they have come across many changing statuses.

The Vedic period is said to be of complete equality for women.  Then came the feudal period, foreign invasions which took away women’s freedom, and the national movement against foreign domination, which also took women’s rights and equality as important along with other issues. Swami Vivekananda has been very vocal about the emancipation of women all through his life.  In post independent India, even though there has been noticeable rise in the activities directed towards women’s emancipation, most of the women in the rural areas are illiterate and trapped in a vicious circle of poverty and deprivation. It is, therefore realized that the women have to be provided with the vital educational inputs, if they are to become a powerful force in the society, and participate in the developmental and decision making process.

Education plays a vital role in liberating women from the society. Swami Vivekananda had held Indian women in high esteem and has appreciated their typical Indian features like spirit of service, compassion, affection, contentment and reverence. Swami Vivekananda felt that no nation can grow without taking care of the interest of women. He said, “All nations have attained greatness by paying proper respect to women. That country and that nation which does not respect women have never become great, nor will ever be in future.” He felt that Indian women must be given the liberty to live an independent life. They must have the right to take decisions and, when faced with problems, should learn to solve it themselves. The only interference that can be made is while providing proper education and making them aware of the society. He felt education of women is the only tool to move forward, and a medium which could help to eradicate all grave problems and help to make them the ideal women in the world. There may be problems in between, but none can be so serious that can not be solved by the magic world “education”. He felt that Indian women had a good understanding about chastity, because it is their heritage. So it was important to intensify that ideal within them and then all aspect would fall in place. He said women, apart from knowledge about science and art, should be given training about religion, hygiene, and cooking, sewing and other simple works of life. Swamiji wished the ancient shradha to return as a remedy to solve the problems of women and change the parental attitude that some how they have to dispose of a girl to marriage when she be of age.

Girls are brought up only to marry someone and not develop as a fully productive citizen. Through educating the masses this situation should change. Swami Vivekananda’s philosophies and contributions towards the women society shall always be remembered for generations to come.

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