Vedas for All

The first thing that attracts the attention of a visitor to the Panini Kanya Mahavidyalaya in Varanasi’s Tulsipur is the language that the students and teachers use to communicate with each other. Those who have grudgingly studied Sanskrit as a third language than they were ever able to master. In the  the conversation here. The school was established in 1971, under the tenets of the Arya Samaj.

“Now here in our scriptures is it mentioned that women can’t study the vedas or utter the mantras written there. There are instances of women becoming rishis in Vedic times, This tradition of keeping women awaya from the study of the

Vedas was a later social tradition, one that Maharshi Dayanand (the founder of the Arya Samaj ) raised his voice against. “ Says Nandita Shastri Chaturvedi, the school’s principal. Today, the school has approximately 100 students, who are taught both the Vedas and modern academic subjects. Both, the faculty and senior students of the institute are often invited to preside at auspicious functions, mostly, though not only, by followers of the Arya Samaj, “we have also conducted a wedding in Delhi, “ says Shastri Ninteen –year –old Vidya, a second year person, who has been acting as a priest on various occasions for the past two years, “ But I don’t want to take this up professionally, As long as we are connected to this institute people view us with a certain degree of respect. They invite us to conduct ceremonies for them. But once owe are out of this school, it is very difficult for a woman to make a living as prisest, “ She says, One of three siblings, Vidya is studying philosophy and psychology, along with her training in the Sanskrit grammatical tradition of vyakarana and wantas to join the civil services, Her brother is pilot and sister a civil services. Vidya’s reluctance to become a professional priest is shared by fellow student Divya.” I want to become a professor,” Says the 17 –year old.

Shastri agrees that most of the students join the ranks of teachers after graduating from the institute, or take up other professions. “ We need numbers to bring about a social change. As of now, we only have a handful of girls who are learning then Vedic mantras. Once there are enough women trained in this, people will also learn to accept them as part of the mainstream,” She says with conviction. Shastri hopes Modi will support the cause of imparting Vedic education to girls- financially and through legislation. That, she believes, will help her school take on more students and spreas the knowledge among many more interested candidates.