LOCATING FEMALE POWER IN ANCIENT & EARLY MEDIEVAL INDIA
Ancient Indian society was undoubtedly patriarchal in nature as we do not find much mention of women in power or position of power. We have no knowledge of who were the rulers of the first Indian civilization- the Indus Valley Civilization whether they were males or females, priests, warriors or merchants. We are still in dark as the Harappan script has not been deciphered yet. The Vedic Aryans had a patriarchal society with ‘Kulapa’ or father as the head of the family similarly the tribal chief was also a male. In Vedic Age,we hear of women slaves being given to priests as gifts apart from cow and cattle. This clearly indicates that women had an inferior position as compared to males from the Vedic period itself. However, many historians have termed the Vedic Age as a golden age for women due to a comparatively liberal atmosphere prevailing during the period. In Vedic Age, women were allowed to participate in the tribal councils like Sabha and the Samiti, allowed to study Vedic texts, undergo upanayana samskara, and had the liberty to choose their bridegroom and even to remain spinster. However,from the Later Vedic period onwards all these rights were curtailed to a great extent as the Smriti and Dharmashastras relegated women to the confines of the household and provided for stringent rules for them in case of education, marriage, widowhood, property rights etc. In early Medieval age, women’s rights were further restricted through the observance of purdah as she needed to be protected from the evil eye of the invaders.