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Ramayana Themes: Woman's Roles

             In the early patriarchal societies Men dominated over the Aryan societies. Every area of social prominence was completely run by men: priests, warriors, tribal chiefs, etc. Woman had very little power in this political/public society. Their main purpose in life was to "influence family affairs" and to be devoted/take care of their children while the man was busy making all the decisions. .
             "Woman could not inherit property, unless a family had no male heirs. Only men could preside over family rituals that honored departed ancestors. Since they had no priestly responsibilities, women rarely learned the Vedas, and formal education in Sanskrit remained almost exclusively a male preserve. The patriarchal spokesman of Vedic society sought to place women explicitly under the authority of men." .
             Sadly for women, their place in society would not be elevated for many years to come. Around the time of the first century B.C.E. a mysterious sage brought a work that was inspired by Manu (the Indian god) called the "Lawbook of Manu." This book taught that men should treat their wives with honor and respect, "but he insisted that women remain subject to the guidance of the principal men in their lives-first their fathers, then their husbands, and finally, if they survived their husbands, their sons." The book continues to say that "the most important duties of women were to bear children and maintain wholesome homes for their families." .
             One of the more extreme actions of women in Aryan society, which showed an extremely deep devotion and dependence on their husbands, was the practice of sati (sometimes spelled suttee). This ritual consisted of the "widow voluntarily [throwing] herself on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband to join him in death." This practice was not engaged very often in Aryan society, but was encouraged by some to widows who had husbands in socially prominent positions. Their actions would be a loud example to those of less prominence that women were dependant on their husbands.

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