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Knowledge belongs to everybody

The Vedas emphatically assert that the knowledge contained in them is meant for all.

india Updated: May 25, 2006 19:54 IST

For several centuries, only Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas were held to be eligible for the study of the Vedas, though in practice, Vedic studies have been the privilege and prerogative of male Brahmins alone. However, this practice has neither theoretical foundation nor Vedic sanction. Rather, the Vedas emphatically assert that the knowledge contained in them is meant for all.

Vedic knowledge and practices are universal in character, says the Atharva Veda: “"O man! I, being of the nature of truth and being unfathomable, have revealed the true Vedic knowledge; so I am he who gave birth to the Veda. I cannot be partial either to a Daasa  or an Arya; I save all those who behave like myself, that is impartially, and follow my truthful commands”.

The Yajur Veda specifically commands that there should be no discrimination either of sex or of class, of caste or of race in the spread of Vedic knowledge. It dictates, “Just as I have revealed this auspicious word to all human beings, so must you.” Even the Manusmriti can not logically uphold that the Vedas are inaccessible to women. For, it maintains that woman like man is a part of Prajapati or Brahman. In its theory of creation it says, “Dividing his own body, the Lord became half male and half female.” To deny women access to Vedas would thus amount to denying access to the Lord Himself.

In the Mahabharata dialogue between Nahusha and Yudhishtra, Yudhishtra says by virtue of the fact that “the speech, the mode of propagation, the birth and death of all mankind are alike”, all men belong to one jati  - the manava jati, the human race. This is further supported by sage Bharadwaja when in the Shanti Parva he asks sage Bhrigu, “We all seem to be affected by desire, anger, fear, sorrow, worry, hunger and labour: how do we have caste differences then?” As a consequence none can belong to a special class, having the exclusive privilege of studying the Vedas, as all belong to the same class.