I bring you this article after a lot of soul-searching. Please bear with me as this is a huge deviation from my usual articles about scriptures, festivals, traditions etc. But I feel so strongly about this issue, and it’s connection to the foundations of our Hindu faith, that I feel it is worth talking about. I understand that this is perhaps not what you “signed up” for, but I hope that you will read through and at least reflect, and maybe respond, on the thoughts in here.
India Census 2011
The results of the latest census from India reveals an alarming trend that the ratio of female to male children (0-6 years) has dropped dramatically from 927:1000 (2001) to 914:1000 (2011). This trend has a lot of well-meaning folks, who have been working hard to fight this downward spiral, very worried.
Despite a slew of laws to prevent female foeticide and schemes to encourage families to have girl child, the ratio has declined from 927 females against 1,000 males in 2001 to 914, which was described as a “matter of grave concern” by Census Commissioner of India C Chandramauli.
But why raise this issue on this blog? What does this have to do with hinduism? Isn’t this a social issue?
Hindu Society and Religion
Well, like anything else in India, most social issues are intertwined with religion (we are still a primarily Hindu nation) and the (often incorrect) interpretation of the scriptures.
So, I asked this question on my twitter account
“In the land where we worship Durga and Kali, why are we letting our female children fill orphanages and die of starvation?”
Very quickly, I got a reply from a friend whom I deeply respect and who has taught me a lot about my own faith over the years –
“… because our worship is fake?!”
To my mind, this reply was a huge indictment and questioning of our reverence for the female Goddesses in Hinduism. We all celebrate festivals in honor of Durga, we revere Saraswati, we pray to Lakshmi – and yet, we as a society, forget all this reverence when it comes to the choice of a child?
So, I ask you to reflect on this, gentle readers, and tell me
Is our worship of all these female goddesses really fake and hypocritical?
If not, then why do we persist with this ‘preference’ for a male
female child? “… because we want to perpetuate the family name”, is the answer given most often.
Well, my proposition is that we should strive to perpetuate our value system, our culture, our Dharma, and above all, our compassion and love for ALL children, male or female!
So, what do you think? If you agree, then please join with me in working towards stopping this insanity. If you don’t agree, that’s okay too – but please spare a thought, and I hope and pray that you think about it the next time you say a prayer to Durga, Lakshmi or Saraswati.
Please tell us about your thoughts – Leave a Comment below. Thank you for reading and sharing.
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Dedicated to Mothers around the world (and particularly in India) on Mother’s Day, 2011
Postscript: After I had written most of this article, I met a couple who adopted a girl from an orphanage in India. The ratio of girls to boys in the orphanage? 20:1.
28 Responses to Is our Goddess worship really hypocritical?
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I believe that many (most) mean well–i.e., unintentional hypocrisy–but that there is a very strong cultural influence that seems to supersede honesty in worship.
Try as we may, we cannot tackle the issue from a single perspective – whether it be religious, social, or political. While it may be overly simplistic to blame corruption for all of a society's ills, if it becomes endemic, then it can hollow out the core….
I thank you for your very detailed comment and putting a new perspective on this women's issue. Namaste!
Shri Kajmani: 80 crore or 800 million people in India live on less than Re. twenty a day. These are govt of India figures. Please try to find out how many die of hunger and malnutrition every year. How many children die of thirst and hunger? How many farmers commit suicide in a year? Is it OK? Do you see a connection between starving masses, diminishing girl child ratio and the immoral rulers?
First of all, I am flabbergasted that this still happens in India, and the census ratio is disturbing. I know that my dad wanted a girl for his first born (lucky for me!) and so did my husband, but this does not seem to be a problem where I came from.
This is an interesting article, and having read a few of the comments above, the general trend is the agreement that female children should be cherished just as much as male children.
But is the female foeticide happening in the literate society as well, or in the more illiterate regions, where they probably pray because they were told to? Because they might not be able to think for themselves? Because they don't know any better? Education is the key to success, and that is exactly what is needed to eradicate many of these barbaric issues. Each town/city/village needs to be made aware and educated, the younger generations should of course be targeted.
Whether the worshipping is fake or not is an entirely separate issue I think. My parents recently visited India, and some temples, and they certainly didn't feel blessed or good in any way after having been there, because of the shoving and pushing (that someone mentioned above). Money talks it seems, and you can go and see the deities sooner if your pay extra. This of course should not be, and in some ways we are happy here in a little town in New Zealand where there are no temples, but we are hindus none-the-less and Durga and Shakthi worshipping carries on with much love and interest at home.
Yes – I too am encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive tone of the comments – most folks seem to agree that massive change is required. The problem is widespread, and not limited to the 'illiterate'. I quote – "Punjab and Haryana, which have traditionally seen low sex ratio, have recorded an increasing trend but still remained at the bottom of the list. Haryana has 830 female children and Punjab 846 against per 1000 male child." These are perhaps two of the most 'prosperous' states in India!
One of the aims of the article was to prompt folks to be mindful of what is going on in Hindu society despite the high reverence for Goddesses. Thanks for writing from New Zealand and please do keep practising, with love!
What a painful and important topic! I live in NYC and can say that here faith also has paradoxical relationships with society–for example many have goddess worship, revere saints like Mother Theresa, and love Mother Mary but yet here also we do not provide equal opportunities nor pay to women, especially when they become mothers. I think that saints and goddesses are real, and love for them and faith are real, but that society disadvantages women so completely that death is seen as preferable over life for the female infant. It is more a tragedy than a matter of just being fake.
Your comment goes to show that the problem of women's status in society is more widespread than one may think – the mis-treatment and prejusices just show up in different ways in different societies – a tragdy indeed!
It’ll probably never be known if our worship’s lacking though I’m sure to any ‘divinity’ that might be out there it must be obvious that our choices are more than lacking in the substance they encompass sometimes. . . Or, maybe ‘lacking substance’ is not the right phrase as it’s perhaps better to resolve our differences by worshiping an “individuality of the Universe” which allows a greater appreciation of our responsibilities towards (women) life on earth, and the secretes that hold eternal understanding. . . Maybe the next subject could dwell on ‘Sankhya philosophy’ and how it may be used to affect our relationship in the material world. . ?
Ah – Sankhya philosophy. – a topic near and dear to my heart. I will revisit it soon.
Maybe ‘lacking in substance’ is not the right phrase as it’s perhaps better to resolve our differences by worshiping the “individuality of the Universe” which allows a greater appreciation of our responsibilities (toward women) and life here on earth, and the secretes that hold eternal understanding. . .
One thing I noticed that all people commented in this discussion are positive. This is the strength. Its for sure that with out a female this "universe" can not exist. Past 60-70 years in India has shown tremendous progress in balancing male-female strength. remember the days of "Sati" and the fight for reforming by many people. The governments have struggled to make equal rights, some more quick reforms have to be implemented by the Govt, like if a girl child is born, the entire education shall be made free; the Govt.should quickly move the social security reforms starting with girls/women, like insurance, health care, unemployment benefits ( Do not allow this for another 20 years to boy/men). The bad elements including women shall get on the spot punishments for doing wrong to women, more NGOs shall come forward to raise funds and implement these professionally, The Hindu Pundits also should change their attitude on the rituals etc., reforms are expected here too.
Sir, Goddess worship is not fake. There are thousands of names for Goddess too, each one of them represents the power of Goddess in various activities, we do these in our every day life too, seeing women as Goddess
Namaste, and thank you for your well thought out and detailed response. I agree that a lot of progress has been made towards improving the status of women since Independence. But, it is obvious that more work needs to be done. The severity of the issue varies in different regions – the ratio of 0-6 year old girls to boys is barely above 825:1000 in some areas.
And yes, the term "fake worship" is perhaps too strong; maybe "partly hypocritical" is a better term? In any case, I am glad that good people have responded positively and that we are discussing this issue. Again, I appreciate your concrete suggestions for addressing the issue and the time that you took to write a response. It is a complex socio-cultural issue with roots in misinterpretation of our scriptures, and it requires action by good people like you and all others who feel like you!
Thanks for writing a most excellent response – a lot of food for thought – and I like your five point reasoning for the purported preference of a male child. Maybe it will be useful to put some historical context to this discussion as to "where we went wrong" – let me do some research.
My intent is NOT to blame anyone – the intent is to get people to think about what we, as a society, are doing – and perhaps encourage people to "change their mindset".
Please dont blame hindu mythology and our system of worship, there is nothing wrong in there. It still binds almost 1000 million hindus in one single thread, the answer lies somewhere else to this problem.
I think the question is familiar but yet unanswered for last so many generations. There are three devils that are most dangerous to the wellbeing of a society – greed, anger and foolishness. Out of greed and foolishness arises such choices of preference of male over female child. There is something wrong with our values. Our ancestors must have erred somewhere while passing over the great hindu mythology.
The law of the nature is absolutely perfect ! The nature has its own system of balancing life and its forms. The human mind, out of its limited intellect/wisdom, tries to manuevere to fullfill its greed, and ends up creating catastrophic situations. Look at the way we have played havoc with the environment, the resulting global warming has reached alarming proportions and may be next 50 years the human race will feel ashamed of the irreversible damage it has done to the nature, jeopardising the existence of our future generation.
The choice of males over female child is one such human foolishness. It all started with our ancestors who always thought more the number of hands more will be the labour they could put, more they will be able to produce and ultimately more will be the earnings. Even today when we choose a male child, we assume – 1. He will be able to earn more being a male, thus supplementing the family income. 2. He will be able to carry forward the family tree. 3. He will be able to take care of us when we are old. 4. To bring up a male child, the only expenditure would be on studies. 5. He might bring name and fame to the family.
All these 5 factors are very foolish. In todays world even girls can achieve anything and everything. All we need is Change the Mindset. Is there a Gaurantee that the male child will be able to fullfill even a single dream? Accept Nature as it comes! Don't fiddle with the nature!
Must appreciate Kajmani for initiating this discussion
Why do most of educated Hindus continue to use this conceit called "Hindu Mythology" concocted by Missionary / Marxist historians?
Great question. Some folks and commentators have gone so far as to label the "Mahabharata" and "Ramayana" as mythology – forget about the Puranas and other scripture(s)! Those who know better need to keep debunking these 'myths' – accidental use or oversight notwithstanding. Namaste!
We are unwitting prey of Macaulay education system of India, designed to create slaves to the bygone empire.
this is a very strong point you have raised. Mataji are worshiped in houses in Indian family all over the world but when there is girl born in a family, it is not a happy occasion mostly in Hindu family!
Namaste! Yes – mothers, sisters, grandmothers – all are celebrated and revered – that is part of our 'culture' – but sometimes, it is those same mothers/-in-laws and grandmothers who put heavy pressure on their daughters/-in-laws for a male "heir"!
People worship coz it soothes them, everytime we take that part of saying which we find is advantegeous to ourselves. Hence this is also that part which we like the most in our words and life. We cannot understand untill some great guy tells us the importance of females in earth……..so wait for that guy to take birth.
This is an irony, INDIAN society is the most ironical society.
I like your use of the word 'irony'. Except, I believe it is a tragic 'irony'!
I am not sure we can afford to wait for another Vivekananda or Dayanand Saraswati. Didn't Gandhi say "Be the change that you wish to see in the world" – so, we need to initiate the change, as individuals – as best we can. Namaste.
I give translation of Gayatri Mantra – the most powerful mantra for spritual clensing! O Supreme Power, The Giver of Life, Remover of pains and sorrows, Bestower of Happiness; You, Most Luminous, Creator of Universe, Pure, Adorable, and Divine; I meditate on You. Please You; inspire and guide my intellect in Right Direction (righteousness). We acknowledge in this Ved Mantra that Supreme Being gives birth to this creation, hence Her Devi form. He also has Logic and is Valiant, hence Devta form. There is nothing fake here. It is the Truth. S/he is also destroyer of Rakshas amongst us, hence present setup in India is due for change and will change. Keep faith.
It’ll probably never be known if our worship’s fake but I’m sure it must be obvious to any ‘divinity’ that might be out there that our choices are sometimes lacking in substance. . .
Very nicely put. "Lacking in substance" is the key phrase….
And thank you for so politely pointing out my editing error (via email) – "…preference for a female child" instead of "preference for a male child" – the crux of the matter :-)
I fully agree that our workship is utterly fake. when I look around at the devotees and see them jostling around,pushing,pulling for space, the way they donate(throw!)money around,but will not spare a paise for charity,when the rich and super rich contribute in crores which are spent in beautifying the idol,gopuram and what not in gold, are we praying to god for peace, wellbeing of our dear and near ones and the humanity as a whole or are we begging to forgive for our selfishness,greed and our own welfare at the cost of others.
Yes, we are fake,our abode of gods are fake and the priests and administrators are fake.Their only aim is money.I have yet to see a lean .thin priest.
My humble belief is that it is essential to maintain the symbols of our religion – and temples are an important part. But yes, maybe there is too much importance to maintaining the symbols, at the cost of charity work and devoting resources to social reform. Thanks for the thoughts! Namaste!
That is true of so many other things – obscene exp on weddings, anniversaries, even Bhagwat Katha or Mataji Jagran come to mind – so why blame temples only? At least, temples are in public domain n available for long term use by / for all~
Yes – simply blaming the institutions (like temples or the government) is not going to solve anything. There is no time for that, and the government can only pass so much legislation. The institutions need to be strengthened to support those who need their support. It's a complex problem which needs some critical thinking – I hope that the discussion here sparks some "out of the box" thinking :-)