This is not just a book by a man about women. It is a tribute to womanhood and women everywhere. It is recognition that one half of humanity is my equals, perhaps my betters in human traits that make us really good human beings. I am aware that they are different, but they are nevertheless my fellow human beings, my sisters. Let me begin with the story of a princess of yore, who was a rebel, a path breaker, a woman who lived life on her own terms and achieved her life’s goal against all odds.
She was not a scholar or a prophet; yet she was a social reformer. She was not a rationalist or atheist; yet she shattered narrow traditions. She was born, brought up and married into the most conservative and patriarchal family; yet she has the courage of conviction to stand up for what she believed in. She lived in an age when women had no identify of their own, except as daughters, mothers and wives; yet she broke away from hidebound conventions to create a unique identity for herself; as a free spirit, as a pure soul, as a trailblazer....
Yes, she was none other than Mira! The princess who turned into a wandering minstrel, the singing saint, beloved of thousands of Indians, the devotee of Sri Krishna who turned her back on wealth and pomp and power to seek Liberation and Union with the Lord! Her very name is deal to all of us, the devotees of Gurudev Sadhu Vaswani, for Gurudev chose her as a role model for the woman-soul; he chose to name his new Education Movement after her. Let me begin this account of Mira’s life with his own words: Four centuries and a half ago, was born, in a village in Mewar, that spiritual genius, the great singer of the love of God—Saint Mira. She lives in the heart of India. Her songs are so unspeakably rich in the wisdom of the Spirit! Her life was so simple and so sublime!
“God’s saints are shining lights,” said a mystic. From the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, from Karachi to Calcutta, Mira is to many a “Shining light”. The secret of her light is devotion to Sri Krishna.
In Rajasthan, in Gujarat, and in North India, her songs are still sung in many homes, the central note of the song being—“I abandon all to Thee, O Lord! To Thee I surrender all I am!
Women is a symbol of Shakti. Shakti is not force: Shakti is the energy which integrates peoples, communities, nations. It is woman’s integrating Shakti that will build a new civilization for the new age!
Women are not the weaker sex, Rev. Dada asserts emphatically. Against all odds, despite oppressive attitudes and negative mindsets of a patriarchal society, women have retained their uniquely special qualities: simplicity, sympathy, selfless service, sacrifice, spiritual aspiration and Shakti.
Through the pages of this book, Rev. Dada traces the Changing attitudes towards women in society and history, and explores the status of women with in marriage, in the family, as single individuals and as participants in the workforce. While issues like violence against women and dealt with squarely, Rev. Dada’s message is one of hope and promise; for he is certain that in the future women will have an important role to play.
This book is his clarion call to the world: “Man has had his chance. He has bungled. He has built a civilization of hatred and strife, of violence and war. This civilisation is already crumbling beneath the burden of its own weight. A new civilisation is too built. The builder of this new civilisation will be the woman. The new civilisation, built by women, will be a civilisation of harmony and peace for which the tortured, the wounded soul of humanity has piteously cried, age after age.”
Time and again, I have had the opportunity to recall the stirring words of my beloved, Sadhu Vaswani: “The woman-soul shall lead us upward on!”
I share his view that the future, indeed, belongs to women. I believe in his conviction that it is women who will take up the task of building the civilisation of the future, based on those great ideals of simplicity, sympathy, selfless, silent sacrifice and spiritual aspiration. It is strength and integrity of their intuition, dedication and spirit of commitment.
Gurudev Sadhu Vaswani was, in many ways, the initiator of a great liberating movement which aimed to give women their rightful place in society, in the hidebound and conservative world of undivided India, as early as the 1920s. The women of Sind were the first beneficiaries of this quiet, non-violent revolution that he spearheaded.
Feminism, women’s liberation and the empowerment of women have become much used, almost clichéd expressions now. In the days before the word ‘feminism’ was even coined, Gurudev Sandhu Vaswani did everything he could to break the shackles of superstition and hidebound ‘customs’ that has kept Sindhi Women restricted and confined for centuries. He offered the Purdah-clad, kitchen-bound women of Sind, spiritual liberation in the true sense of the term. Indeed, I would say that he was the initiator of a unique women’s movement, which focussed on the spiritual strength of women. How many of you who read this book in the second decade of the twenty-first century will believe me if I tell you that this great liberating movement began in a Satsang?
His Sakhi Satsang, a spiritual association of women formed for the purpose of helping them to realise their true potential, enabled many women to become decision-makers for the first time in their personal lives—by the very act of voluntarily joining his Satsang. It would be no exaggeration to say that he inducted Sindhi women into what had until then been the domain of men—the practice of religion in the true sense.
He spoke out against the purdah as also against the deadly custom of deti-leti (dowry). At the same time, he was also aware of the dangers of excessive ‘modernism’, warning women against aping western fashions blindly. He encouraged them to cultivate the virtue of simplicity in their dress and in their daily life.
The Sakhi Satsang was quite revolutionary in its spiritual, social, cultural and economic impact on Sindhi women, if one were to consider the Movement in all its aspects. For the first time, women learnt about economic independence, accountability and trust, when they were given the management of Sakhi stores. They look their first steps on the path of self-reliance, outside the secure confines of their own homes.
At the Sakhi conference organised by him for their benefit, they had the chance to make themselves heard on matters concerning themselves; on social evils like dowry, child marriage and exploitation. Gurudev Sandhu Vaswani’s Seva Ashram opened a new world to women who wished to tread the spiritual path. Above all, he emphasised the spiritual Shakti of women, exclaiming aloud to male-dominated society. “The woman soul shall lead us upward, on!”
Gurudev Sadhu Vaswani’s contribution to women’s education was equally significant. The MIRA movement in Education which he founded in Hyderabad-Sind set new standards for value-based education which emphasised character building and cultivation of the soul. The Mira Movement was, first and foremost, an educational movement exclusively devoted to the development of women power. His ideal of the triple training of the head, the hand and the heart added a new dimension to the education for girls.
This book is my humble tribute to the great visionary and Prophet of modern India, Gurudev Sadhu vaswani, whose faith in the woman-soul was tremendous. It is also an expression of my deep appreciation of that wonderful half of the human population—our women, our mothers, sisters and daughters—who alone are capable of touching life at its very core.
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