Vedic Mantra chanting gets a new voice in India

Fri Nov 4, 2011 5:29am EDT
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By Alka Pande

HARDWAR, India (Reuters) - For centuries, Indian women were forbidden from chanting Vedic Mantras, especially in public, out of fear the power of the religious verses might cause menstrual problems and difficulties in bearing children.

Though thinking changed slightly in recent years to allow women to chant in some cases, it remained extremely rare and private.

But on November 6, this will change.

A total of 108 Indian women has been selected to chant mantras in front of an audience of millions in the northern Indian town of Hardwar, part of ceremonies celebrating the centennial of a spiritual leader's birth.

And that will pave the way for women to chant mantras in other public events such as engagement, weddings and child-birth ceremonies.

"It's a long overdue victory for women, especially in a country where women were not even allowed to hear the Vedic Mantras in ancient times," said Manju Agarwal, a psychology professor and women rights activist in Lucknow, northern India.

Known as "Brahmavaadinis," or the ones who speak God's language, the women were carefully chosen and trained over six months for their unprecedented duty. The number 108 is auspicious in Hinduism.

"The selection of the women was done through a rigorous process, in which they were tested for clarity of diction, accuracy in pronunciation and proper understanding of the Mantras," said Amrendra Singh, a follower of Gayatri Paravar, the organization behind the ceremonies.   Continued...