Women's intelligence

Aklujkar aklujkar at UNIXG.UBC.CA
Sat Jan 31 22:35:03 EST 1998

The general inclination in Sanskrit literature such as ;Suka-saptati,
Vetaala-pa;nca-vi.m;sati (in their various versions) and the surviving
recasts of the B.rhat-kathaa is to depict women as naturally
smart/intelligent/resourceful and as having a superior presence of mind. As
I recall (but do not have time to verify at present) sometimes this view is
even explicitly stated in this body of literature having a close connection
with what we would call folk, popular or oral literature.

Other authors who would probably have something to say on the intelligence
of women in an essentialist way are Damodara-gupta (Ku.ttanii-mata) and
K.semendra (many observant small texts to his credit).

Note also the M.rcchaka.tika verse striyo hi naama khalv etaa nisargaad eva
pa.n.ditaa.h / puru.saa.naa.m tu paa.n.ditya.m ;saastrair evopadi;syate //.
Furthermore, Kaalidaasa's phrase in the fifth act of the ;Saakuntala: tad
etat pratyutpanna-mati strai.nam iti yad ucyate (I am quoting both from
memory, but should not be far off from the actual texts).

I can recall, as others contributing to this thread have already recalled,
remarks that express surprise or admiration for women doing something that
they usually did not do in certain Indian societies of certain periods --
e.g., speak like a man in thegatherings of men (to be  pu.mvat pragalbha,
to use the phrase in Raghu-va.m;sa canto 6; the Mahaabhaarata should have
similar phrases in Viduraa's tongue-lashing of her son Sanjaya, Draupadii's
argumentations etc.); be learned in ;saastras. However, at least at present
I cannot recall any remark that can mean without doubt or without being
contextually circumscribed in some way that women are born with a lower or
inferior intelligence.

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