The story of Ram and Sita, which is narrated in the Hindu epic, is familiar to Hindus and the audience of the film, Slumdog Millionaire. On the basis of this story, Ernie Rea of BBC Radio 4 and guests discuss about the place of women in Hinduism (Women in Hinduism, Beyond Belief – BBC Radio 4., 2017). Though millions of Hindu women living in England can learn some living principles from the stories, there are suspicions that some of these values are demeaning to women. It is important, therefore, to understand what Hinduism teaches about how women are supposed to live their lives.
The first point of discussion is whether women are ill-treated in the society. The BBC guest is of the view that women are oppressed in Indian society, especially in the rural communities. In these regions, Indians have accepted the segregation, slavery, and violent treatment of Indian women as an ordinary way of life in the society (Women in Hinduism, Beyond Belief – BBC Radio 4., 2017). This bad attitude towards women has been prevalent in the Indian society for a long time and has been inscribed in the Hindu ideology. Furthermore, India like most global societies is highly patriarchal, and women are regarded as inferior to men in all aspects of life.
Indian women are home makers and are expected to conform to the century-old culture of doing all the household chores such as cleaning and washing. However, women may have the role of being protectors only in time of adversity as personified by the goddess, Lakshmi. During times of adversity, the goddess develops ten arms to fight off the demons.
More comparisons are drawn from Ram and Sita story when the latter epitomized the roles of an Indian woman. Though Sita was an angry and vocal character who fought for her rights, her role is quickly ignored. Instead, Ram takes center stage even as he makes serious mistakes. There is a consensus that women in Indian society are supposed to be passive and submissive regardless of their contributions to the society.
The role of the modern Indian woman today is still the similar to what it was centuries ago (Women in Hinduism, Beyond Belief – BBC Radio 4., 2017). For example, the society does not expect women to own properties because wealth is regarded as the preserve of the Muslims men. Though Indian women are becoming more and more progressive, they are still expected to play their traditional roles, regardless of their social class. It is the onus of the young Hindus to try and transform the Indian society by rejecting these traditions and promoting equality in society.
- BBC Radio. 2017. Women in Hinduism, Beyond Belief – BBC Radio 4. BBC. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mhxn3