The present volume contains about half of the papers submitted for the seminar on the Position and Status of Women in Ancient India organised under the auspices of the Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, March 26th-31st, 1988; the remaining papers have been reserved for the second volume hopefully to be printed within the next two-three months. The second volume will additionally include also those papers which will be reaching us by the time of the seminar as well as the discussions on all the papers presented in the various sessions of the seminar.
The theme of the seminar was decided about two years back when the welfare of the women was being discussed in a meeting of the representatives of the various Governments of the world and the position and status of women in the Indian society was being vigorously debated on the national level in our own country. In the latter debate critical references were being made to the ancient period of Indian law-givers, particularly Manu, the author of the Manusmrti, the greatest of the Indian social philosophers. Therefore, it appeared necessary to look into our ancient literature and to review afresh the position and status of women in ancient India with a critical view-point and in historical perspective, so that the rise and decline in the position and status of women is properly and accurately delineated, causal factors and situations are properly identified, and the contributions of our ancient social philosophers to the growth and development of Indian culture, especially to the improvement or decline in the status of women is critically assessed. It is just a change, but a happy and significant one, that the problem has been taken up for a thorough discussion on the national level by the B. H. U. Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology where a scholar fifty years back had produced the first pioneering and monumental work on the same subject in 1938, viz. Position of Women in Hindu Civilisation by A. S. Altekar. During this intervening period of half a century much evidence in the form of literary works, inscriptions, etc. has come forth; new challenges from historians, adherents of a particular political philosophy and therefore having a typical vision, have been posed and new questions have been raised in the context of the swiftly changing social situations as well as the new social ideologies of the modern times. Another objective of the seminar has been also to assess and understand women's role in and contribution to the growth and development of Indian culture and its cherished values.
In this context it was felt obligatory to look at the problem from different angles, at various levels as well as areas, and to discuss it as thoroughly as possible. With this in view, eminent and active scholars from all the relevant academic disciplines functioning in the Universities were invited and involved to make the study broad-based and complete for arriving at scientific and reliable conclusions. Our invitations fetched rich response and scholars from all the concerned areas such as History, Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Tamil, Art, Philosophy, etc. have contributed their learned papers variously discussing the problem in respect of a period or region or basing it on the data available in a literary composition or in a group of such works. And barring only a few, most of the areas and points have been covered. Therefore, it is hoped that the two volumes comprising the seminar papers and the discussions thereon will make a welcome contribution to our knowledge of the subject.
Our ancient authors and social philosopher have all along bestowed maximum attention on the women, constituting the better half of human population and have always felt concerned with their condition in the contemporary social set-up. In the writings of these ancient thinkers as well as in the writings of modern scholars there appears to have been a conscious effort to analyse and identify the factors that contributed to the gradual decline in the condition and social status of women through the period of Indian history. The present seminar of a further joint-endeavour of a group of scholars in the same direction. And it is felt that the researches of these eminent scholars from different disciplines together present a much more clear and complete picture and also identify the various contributive situations and the causal factors. But it will be appropriate to delineate and account the contributions and achievement of this seminar only at the end of the second volume in the Retrospect.
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