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The empowerment of humanity has become a clarion call in today’s globalised world. India is no exception. Women as we all know form half the population of the world. If they are neglected humanity is deprived of half of its energy and creativity. Jawaharlal Nehru rightly said, “you can bounce condition of the nation by looking at the status of women”. The position and prospects of women in Indian society during the last 5000 years has undergone a massive change concerning their dreams, visions, hopes and aspirations. We look at the position and status of Indian women in the past five thousand years.
In the early Vedic age the recognition of a definite relationship between a man and a woman as husband and wife forms the very basis of domestic life in a civilized society. The wife enjoyed every dignified position. She was the mistress of the household and enjoyed co-ordinate authority in all, even religious activities. Women were free in their movements. There was no difference in child marriage between square allowed to remarry. Girls, like the boys, underwent the Upanayana ceremony. Girls also received higher education in their childhood. There was the preference of sons over daughters but once a child was born there voice no questions of infanticide or ill-treatment of daughters.
In the later Vedic period the position of women in domestic life saw a decline. Marriage before puberty became the general rule to preserve the physical purity of girls. Early marriage restricted girls from getting an education beyond the elementary stage. The domestic status of an average Indian wife meaning changed from having co-ordinate authority and equal powers with husband to an obedient servant to her lord. Women increasingly became objects of sensual pleasure; the source of all evils and an obstacle to salvation.
In the mediaeval period with the advent of Muslims, new culture and protection of women gained prominence. There was the introduction of the Purdah system. The main importance of Indian women in this period was that she was the fountainhead of Indian culture spreading to its future generations.
Modern India versus weakness to several changes. In the social sphere, several reform movements attempted at women’s emancipation in a society reeling under social evils like the Purdah system, dowry, sati, child marriage etcetera. With the advent of the British, the condition of women both improved and worsened as several liberal ideas crept in from the west. The British conquest was a shark floor in the Indian economy as a necessary to the Indian families, worst hit were women. Women now had to step out of their household for a better way of existence. With the introduction of several legislations, girls received a good education and their leader position became much stronger.
The condition of a society can only be improved only if its women are empowered. Though several issues of women still exist we still live in a far better society.