Why Gayatri mantra is widely recited by non-bramhins nowadays which was once the stronghold of only the brahmins?
gAyatri mantra HAS TO BE recited by non brahmins also, Kshatriyas and vysyas too have right for vedic initiation/upanayana. Secondly women too have right to study and chant vedas and conduct vedic rites. So it is good that non brahmins too are taking interest in this else the divine knowledge of vedas would keep on reducing among the masses.
Non-brahmins and Vedas :
Today the Indian society is mainly divided on the lines of Brahmins and Non Brahmins. It is not very difficult to understand that such a division of the society is not provided for either in the dharma shAstra-s or the vedas. This man-made division is the height of absurdity considering the fact that vedas do not sanction such a division as the kShatriya-s & vaishya-s are considered to be equal to the Brahmins insofar as the study of veda-s and vedic practices are concerned. Just like brAhman the kShatriya & vaishya are also entitled to upanayana samskAra and gAyatri as is evident from different gRhyasUtra-s for eg, Apastamba says :
“ गर्भाष्टमेषु ब्राह्मणं, गर्भैकादशेषु राजन्यं, गर्भाद्वादशेषु वैश्यम्।। (आपस्तम्बः)”
in the eighth year from conception i.e. the 7th year from birth, the brAhman should be intitiated into gAyatri. Similarly, in the 10th year from birth for kShatriya and 11th year for vaishya
brAhmaNaH kShatriyo vaishyaH trayo varNAH dvijAdayaH saMskRtAshcAnyathA shUdrAH evaM vedavido viduH tasmAdayaM suto me.adyaH shUdravat vartate shishuH upanItaH kriyArhaH syAt iti vedeShu nirNayaH rAjJAmekAdashe varShe sadopanayanaM smRtaM aShTame brAhmaNAnAM ca vaishyAnAM dvAdashe kila (devI bhAgavata 7-7)
“The three varNa-s of brAhmaNa, kShatriya and vaishya are dvija (twice born) only if they undergo the upanayana saMskAra otherwise they are indeed considered to be shUdra in the absence of saMskAra”
How then did the kShatriya-s & vaishya-s came to be grouped as “non-brahmins” ? Grouping of certain varNa-s as non-brahmins is therefore unwarranted and uncalled for. It must also be understood that the words ‘varNa’ & ‘jAti’ stand for entirely different concepts and the word varNa cannot by any stretch of imagination be used to mean a particular caste or jAti. It is therefore worthwhile to understand the true concept of varNa.
Further, a prayer to agni in the beginning of yAga goes thus :
“रुचं नो धेहि ब्राह्मणेषु रुचं राजसु नस्कृधि | रुचं विश्येषु शूद्रेषु मयि धेहि रुचा रुचं |”
“rucaM no dhehi brAhmaNeShu rucaM rAjasu naskRdhi | rucaM vishyeShu shUdreShu mayi dhehi rucA rucaM |” (YV. Mula samhita K.5. P.7 A.6. - 3 and 4)
which is a prayer to the agni to “bestow upon us the radiance of the brAhmaNa-s, kShatriya-s, vaishya-s & shUdra-s”. Had the kShatriya or vaishya or shUdra been inferior to the brAhmaNa-s, would anyone pray for the energies of these varNa-s?
It must be understood that the varNa classification exists among the devas, the gems, the nine planets, in the animals and even in the letters of sanskrit. “vaiDUrya” (cat’s eye) a particular gem is classified as brAhmaNa, kshatriya, vaishya & shUdra based on its variation in color. Among the nine planets, the sun is kShatriya, but shani, the son of sun is a shUdra. Similarly, budha is classified as a vaishya. But budha is stated to be the son born to chandra & tArA. guru & shukra are stated to be brAhmaNa-s. Now which of the nine planets is superior or inferior ? The soil of the earth is also subject to these varNa classification. By mixing different varNa-s of soil, fertility that is lost can be restored. The soil that has lost its fertility, though called by its original name, can never have the original characteristics unless mixed with fresh fertile soil. In the creation of humans also, the varnas are subject to changes arising out of various reasons. Manu smRti says a brAhmaNa can become a vaishya in three days if he resorts to selling milk. By indulging in trade, a brAhmaNa will become a vaishya. Similarly a shUdra can become a brAhmaNa by reciting gAyatri. There are umpteen instances of the so called shUdra-s attaining brAhman-hood. Hence, the varNa-s were never created or conceived as water tight compartments. The difference in the varNa-s was actually meant for evolution of mankind by improving the divine powers of “brahma” “kShatra” & “viT” energies through penance and religious practices as enjoined in the veda-s and definitely not for creating inequality or complexes and animosity in the minds of people. By the increase of divine power, the self and the society as a whole and the nation can attain comfort and happiness.
Women and Vedas :
Vedas don't differentiate among boys and girls in the samskaras or shodasa samskara. Upanayanam ( Yajnopavita ) is one of the major samskara in which the child gets officially initiated into Brahma Gayatri and it is mainly focused on Brahmopadesham which enables him to become eligible to learn vedas and other shastras. After this ceremony he attains the "Dwija" hood or Twice born. Sutras prescribe various age groups for different Varna's for initiation. For example about Brahmin varna, अष्टम्वर्षे ब्राह्मणमुपनयेत् ( Ashvalayana Grhya Sutra 1:19:1 ) , गर्भाष्टमे ब्राह्मणमुपनयेत् ( Varaha. Grhya. Sut.) Similar rules are prescribed for Kshatriyas and Vaisyas too only the age limit is extended for them.
Here Sutra kaara's by brahmana , kshatriya etc mean that both boys and girls of this varna's are to be initiated. The gender is not designated to be masculine alone. Since most of the rituals are meant for boys and girls both hence they have commonly addressed as masculine words which are generally used in any stories or instructions etc.
For example a rule like " ब्राह्मणो न हन्तव्यः" ( the brahmana should not be murdered) it is meant that the ब्राह्मणी also should not be murdered. Similarly "मरणधर्मा मानवः" means man is mortal we mean that women is also mortal. Hence gender is specifically mentioned only where it is required.
As per Haarita dharma sutra, those women who are Brahma Vaadini have right for initiation, Vedic studies , Fire establishment and bhiksha etc. द्विऽविधाः स्त्रियो ब्रह्मवादिन्यः सदीवध्वश्च । तत्र ब्रह्मवादिनीनामुपनयनम्योन्धनं वेदाध्ययनं स्वगृहे भिक्शाचर्या चेति ( 21:23)
As per Yama Smriti,
पुरा कल्पे कुमारिणां मोञ्जोबन्धन मिष्यते । अध्यापनन्श्च वेदानां सावित्रीवाचनन्तथा ॥ पिता पितृव्यो भ्राता वा नैनामध्यापयेत् परः |
In olden times tying of girdle was prescribed for girls. So also study of vedas and uttering of Gayatri ( Savitur) preferably from father , brother or uncle. She is allowed for begging alms within her house limits. Yama refers to existence not only in olden days but during his times as well by his sentence पुराकल्पे ( यथैष्यत) तथा (अधुनाऽपि) इष्यते. The word तथा is specially put by Yama by way of comparison between old time and his own time so he says that during his time girls should learn from father, brother etc and she dont need to wear deer skin, bark etc. If Yama had intended to say that girls should not be initiated in his time unlike olden times he would say something like इह कल्पे तासामेवं न कुर्यान्मतिमान् क्कचित् ॥ As he uses verbs in present tense so we can make out that he prescribed rules for his own days and was the case in olden days too.
Gobhila says that Bride should wear the sacred thread when the bridegroom leads her to the altar. "प्रावृतां यज्ञोपवीतिनीमम्युदानयन् जपेत् सीमोऽदाद् गन्धर्वायेति " ( Gobhila Grhya sutra 2:1:19) यज्ञोपवीतिनाऽचान्तोदकेन कृत्यम् ( Gobhila Grhya sutra 1:1:2)
Like the women are eligible for vedas, they are eligible for brahmavidya too.
(यथाधिकरः श्रोतेषु योषितां कर्म सुश्रुतःएवमेवानुमन्यम्ब ब्रह्माणि ब्रह्मवादिताम् Yama Smriti )
Brahamchari is one who is engaged in the study of vedas. ब्रह्मचर्येण ब्रह्म वेदः तदध्ययनार्थमाचर्यम् Atharva veda sAyana bhashyam
By the tapas of brahmacharya a maiden finds a youthful husband; by brahmacharya the bull and the horse seek their fodder. ----------- (Atharva Veda 11.5.18)
A brahmacharin should be married to a brahmacharini. ब्रह्मचरिणां च ब्रहचारिणीभिः सह विवाह् प्रशस्यो भवति - Pranavavada of maharshi Garga
Without initiated by proper samskara, no one is eligible to utter holy vedic mantras. But women are found to utter them in many of Shrauta and Grhya sacrifices (yajnas).
In the sAkamedha the third of chaturmasa (four monthly) sacrifice the girl uses the Tryambaka's mantra (त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पतिवेदनम्। उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनादितो मुक्षीय माऽमुतः, Shukla Yajurveda Samhita III :60 )
As per Shatapatha Brahmana, The priest and Sacrificer go round the altar thrice from right to left, but maidens go from left to right. While doing so the maidens utter the Tryambaka mantra. ( II : 6 : 2 : 13 ) Yajnikadeva in the "paddhati" says वचनात् कुमार्या अपि मन्त्रपाठः meaning that maidens should too utter the sacred formulas as prescribed.
In Madana pArijAta the author quotes KAtyayana (KAtyayana samhita p.330) to show that if any samskara before the initiation ceremony is left unobserved, it should be performed with offering of oblation.
There was no gender based differentiation in the education in the gurukul as well. AtreyI was a class mate of Lava and Kusha, kAmandakI and SaudAminI were class mates of BhUrivAsu and devarAta in the university. (Uttara Rama Charita) Girls too resided for equal duration like boys in the gurukul for education. Amba stayed at the gurukul of Shaikhavatyas.
Taken from several articles my blog Yamalesha.blogspot.com.
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