In his text Who’s Genuine Grantharaja Prabhu wrote:
“From this episode we can see that in Vedic times women were educated. Also of note is that Draupadi was free to speak openly and in front of men and men who were her seniors. She also did not keep her face or hair covered. The practice of purdah and the repression of women was introduced by the mleccha hoards that invaded Northern India during the last millennium.”
This is in contradiction to the following statements of Srila Prabhupada and the Mahabharata. But before going to those quotations I would like to comment on the education of women in Vedic culture. Certainly they were educated, it was the duty of the husband and his family to continue the education of the young girl who enters into the husbands “ashrama.” Why because for the girl Manu Samhita 2.67 tells us, vivaha (marriage) is equivalent to upanayanam for the boy, beginning of entry into Vedic culture. And, that all the duties performed by the girl in the ashrama of her pati guru are equivalent to those of a brahmacari in the gurukula. In the grhasta ashrama of the husband his main disciple is his wife and he instructs and guides her as the pati-guru. And when she was in the ashrama of her father she was instructed there by her seniors. Or, later in the ashrama of her sons like Devahuti was instructed by Kapiladeva. We read in the biography of Raghavendra Swami, a revered saint in the Madhva Sampradaya, that while in his purva ashrama he was studying in Kumbhakonam and every evening when he returned home he would teach his wife what he had learned that day (unless it was a topic forbidden for women) so that his wife was also vastly learned by the grace of her pati guru.
As for speaking out before seniors there is a cultured decorum followed by males what to speak of females when one is before one’s seniors. In the above case of Krsna, Arjuna and Devaki they were all on very familiar terms. So familiar that Arjuna in the 11th chapter of the Gita apologized to Krsna for his familiarity because he is aware that familiarity breeds contempt and he hoped that he had not crossed the line. From the way Grantharaja Prabhu is writing it appears that he is advocating that women should behave indecorously like some pushy, loud mouthed, fish monger’s wife. I hope my perception of his meaning is wrong. To understand how Draupadi actually dealt with her husbands and why they were so devoted to her that they killed the whole Kaurava dynasty to defend her honor the reader should study Draupadi’s instructions to Satyabhama
Draupadi was a highly cultured lady the likes of whom have not been seen on this planet in thousands of years. She was not a coarse, selfish, pushy woman. Ladies, if they want to become person Bhagavatams should emulate the behavior and teaching of Draupadi a prominent personality in the Bhagavatam who preached by her impeccable behavior.
Returning now to the quotations of Srila Prabhupada and Mahabharata that stand in direct contradiction to Grantharaja Prabhu’s statements regarding invading mllecha hoards, purdah, and modest dress, etc.
In the following Srila Prabhupada repudiates the popular misconception pushed by feminists that certain Vedic cultural norms are actually Islamic impositions. They are not, they are Vedic and followed by many cultures in remote antiquity and ultimately influenced Islam, not the other way around.
“Shyness is a particular extra-natural beauty of the fair sex, and it commands respect from the opposite sex. This custom was observed even during the days of the Mahabharata, i.e., more than five thousand years ago. It is only the less intelligent persons not well versed in the history of the world who say that observance of separation of female from male is an introduction of the Mohammedan period in India. This incident from the Mahabharata period proves definitely that the ladies of the palace observed strict parda (restricted association with men), and instead of coming down in the open air where Lord Krsna and others were assembled, the ladies of the palace went up on the top of the palace and from there paid their respects to Lord Krsna by showers of flowers.” Srimad Bhagavatam 1.10.16 purport.
In the following quote from Mahabharata Vysadeva describes that Draupadi was very well covered. The Ganguli and MN Dutta edition give same translation.
“Janamejaya said, ‘O thou possessed of ascetic wealth, what did those high-souled ones, my grandsires, the illustrious Pandavas, do, after obtaining the kingdom of Indraprastha? How did their wife Draupadi obey them all? How is it also that no dissensions arose amongst those illustrious rulers of men, all attached to one wife, viz., Krishna? O thou of the wealth of asceticism, I wish to hear everything in detail regarding the behaviour towards one another of those rulers of men after their union with Krishna.’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Those scorchers of foes, the Pandavas, having obtained their kingdom, at the command of Dhritarashtra, passed their days in joy and happiness at Khandavaprastha with Krishna. And Yudhishthira. endued with great energy and ever adhering to truth, having obtained the sovereignty, virtuously ruled the land, assisted by his brothers. And the sons of Pandu, endued with great wisdom and devoted to truth and virtue, having vanquished all their foes, continued to live there in great happiness. And those bulls among men, seated on royal seats of great value, used to discharge all the duties of government. And one day, while all those illustrious heroes were so seated, there came unto them the celestial Rishi Narada, in course of his wanderings. Beholding the Rishi, Yudhishthira offered him his own handsome seat. And after the celestial Rishi had been seated, the wise Yudhishthira duly offered him the Arghya with his own hands. And the king also informed the Rishi of the state of his kingdom. The Rishi accepting the worship, became well-pleased, and eulogising him with benedictions, commanded the king to take his seat. Commanded by the Rishi, the king took his seat. Then the king sent word unto Krishna (in the inner apartments) of the arrival of the illustrious one. Hearing of the Rishi’s arrival Draupadi, purifying herself properly, came with a respectful attitude to where Narada was with the Pandavas. The virtuous princess of Panchala, worshipping the celestial Rishi’s feet, stood with joined hands before him, properly veiled, The illustrious Narada, pronouncing various benedictions on her, commanded the princess to retire. After Krishna had retired, the illustrious Rishi, addressing in private all the Pandavas with Yudhishthira at their head, said, ‘The renowned princess of Panchala is the wedded wife of you all. Establish a rule amongst yourselves so that disunion may not arise amongst you. There were, in former days, celebrated throughout the three worlds, two brothers named Sunda and Upasunda living together and incapable of being slain by anybody unless each slew the other. They ruled the same kingdom, lived in the same house, slept on the same bed, sat on the same seat, and ate from the same dish. And yet they killed each for the sake of Tilottama. Therefore, O Yudhishthira, preserve your friendship for one another and do that which may not produce disunion amongst you.’
Mahabharata Adi Parva, SECTION 210, (Rajya-labha Parva)
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