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Why Women Cannot Perform Last Rites In Hinduism? Posted by: Sanchita Chowdhury

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Active member
Gopinath Munde cremated, daughter Pankaja lights funeral pyre

Read more at: Gopinath Munde cremated, daughter Pankaja lights funeral pyre | Firstpost

In light of the overwhelming support for BJP in the last election (and here on this forum), there is every reason to question the so called "TRADITIONS" in certain pockets. A religious tradition to be universally accepted must be separate from social norms. In one of the active threads we were told to accept the "TRADITIONS" even if we do not understand it. I on the other hand propose that "traditions" with out reason are superstitions and Myths and should be always challenged. Unless you reason and distill the traditions one is deluded.

Hinduism prescribes a lot of rules and regulations when it comes to women. Some of these rules make sense and are there for the benefit of women while others can be simply called superstitions and a way to keep women away from important business. One of these rules is performing the last rites of parents. The Hindu scriptures say that the last rites or antim sanskar of parents can only be performed by the son. Women are exempted from performing the antim sanskar or the last rites. This rule has been a source of controversy since centuries. There have been instances where a couple is survived only by a female child. In such cases, the funeral rites are performed by some male member of the family. This rule thereby denies the right of the woman not only over her parents but also on the parental property. Yet over the centuries, the rules have taken a backseat and women have realised their importance. It is no more a taboo where a girl child cannot perform the last rites of the parents. So, why is it that women cannot perform the last rites in Hinduism? Let us find out.
The Emotional Ones
Scriptures say that women are soft hearted and emotional beings. They have a higher attachment to the dead and the death becomes overwhelming for them. So, while performing the rites they may be overcome with extreme grief which may result in incomplete execution of rituals.
The Woman Factors
The feminine factors and issues such as pregnancy and menstruation is a hindrance in performing the rites. Taking these factors into consideration, women were exempted from performing the last rites.
Only An Excuse?
Though the reasons seem valid to some extent, the hard and fast rule about women not performing the last ritual seems like an excuse. There are women who are strong enough to handle the grief. Apart from that menstruation is only health condition which should not prevent women from performing any kind of rituals. But since menstruation is considered as impure in Hinduism, women are exempted from performing any kind of ritual during the phase. Some scholars are of the view that this rule was added to the scriptures to prevent women from demanding paternal property. Since Indian society is highly patriarchal, exempting women from performing last rites of parents would ensure that they have no rights or legal claim on their parents' property. The Changing Pattern With the changing times, the pattern is also changing for women. Women are now coming out of the veil and claiming their rights. Many women who happen to be the only child of their parents are now performing the antim sanskar ritual. This changing pattern is a sure sign that women have realised that they are not to be subjugated and have realised their worth. Thus, the modern woman is challenging all the derogatory practices which seeks to restrict freedom and rights. She is emerging as the power which will definitely take Hinduism towards a better future.

Read more at: Why Women Cannot Perform Last Rites In Hinduism? - Oneindia Boldsky


Raji Ram

Active member
Women tend to get more emotions than men. So they were not allowed to enter the burning ghat. Now that electric

crematoriums are installed, women are brave enough to go there. I have gone to the Besant Nagar crematorium a

few times to attend the funeral rites of our close relatives.

In early 60s, when I was a school kid, my classmate did the last rites for her dear father, since she had only two more

sisters in her family! Later on, she also became the 'maNiyakArar' of our village, just as her father. I still remember

her face and brave nature! Her name is Kunjamma. :thumb:
Mr. P. good post. I myself am fully supportive of women doing last rites, even in addition to the brother. There is a difference between religion and tradition, and this being part of tradition can definitely be modified.

But it is also true what Mrs. RR said, women are attached and sometimes emotional and may not be actually able to perform. In that case, maybe they can be helped by someone.

Raji Ram

Active member
Dear Biswa Sir,

Nearly five decades back, my friend, a school kid, performed her dear father's last rites in our village. Hard to believe, right?


Active member
Women tend to get more emotions than men. So they were not allowed to enter the burning ghat. Now that electric

I would not argue with you, but Iron ladies like Margret Thatcher, Indira Ganndhi would not be considered weak.
Danica Patric in the Nascar Circuit is as tough as any other driver.
Women were caste as emotional and they were excluded from religious and financial activity (By men). Women over period of time went along with it. In the present day Why should they be barred from such activity.

The importance of the male relative performing the last rites comes from the Garuda puran, one of the eighteen Puranas which are part of the Hindu body of texts known as smriti. The puran insists on the importance of the eldest son performing the funeral rites of the deceased. It does not mention a daughter's role although some scholars have noted that it does not expressly forbid them from doing so. In everyday life, the prohibition on daughters is framed in terms of kinship. Once a daughter is 'given away' in marriage, she is no longer seen as part of the family. But even when she is unmarried or without a brother,tradition has favoured other male relatives, however distant, on the grounds that key religious duties must remain exclusively a masculine domain.
The average middle class family is strewn with numerous examples of daughters who become the bulwark for the parents, especially in old age and sickness -- a role that again was once reserved for the son. With modern life creating ever greater in-law strife, parents are increasingly opting to live with their daughter, a choice that was once considered shameful. "It is impossible to accept in this day and age that assuming a woman gets married she will cut off her ties with the family she is born in and will leave it to suffer the vagaries of life in penury," Bombay high court Justice Nishita Mhatre observed in a ruling that prohibited the government from refusing married daughters employment on compassionate ground when their parent was forced into retirement. "In my opinion, the rule which discriminates against women is arbitrary and, therefore, it cannot be said that the termination of service of Parke was legal." Underlying that routine ruling was the understanding that the Indian family was changing irrevocably, as were the roles of its members. The taboo on performing the last rites is just one part of a seismic change. And today, its face was Pankaja Munde.

Read more at: Lighting her father's pyre: Pankaja Munde makes history | Firstpost

Raji Ram

Active member
I would not argue with you, but Iron ladies like Margret Thatcher, Indira Ganndhi would not be considered weak.
.......... And today, its face was Pankaja Munde. ........
Dear Prasad Sir,

You are talking about famous ladies and today's Pankaja Munde!!

I am talking about my friend Kunjamma, who did NOT get any media coverage, about five decades ago! :sad:


Active member
Dear Prasad Sir,

You are talking about famous ladies and today's Pankaja Munde!!

I am talking about my friend Kunjamma, who did NOT get any media coverage, about five decades ago! :sad:

No No No, I agree Kunjamma was courageous lady no doubt, but the tradition did not change, the hope is that famous people break a ,meaningless tradition they become pioneers, and society follows them.
Garuda Puran, does not forbid categorically that daughters can not do last rites. However it insists it should be done by the eldest son or others.

In chapter 11, shloka 12-17 Garuda Puran says:-

The son should perform rites, If there is no son then wife should perform rites. If no wife, then brother should perform it. If man has no son and no wife then sons of younger or elder brother should perform them. if the departed has no one in family, priest should perform it.

Shloka 18 - If a man or a woman performs last rites ....

It means there is no restriction on performing last rites by a woman.

Now the question is if a daughter can do it. Although Garuda Puran has not barred daughters from performing last rites, yet it has not even mentioned them.

(Please note Wife of the deceased is allowed to perform the Final rites in case there is no son )



Traditions are best done with understanding. But understanding, questioning and learning takes time and effort. Hindus like to make things up to suit their whim since most do not invest time to learn. Also teachers if any hide behind faith and rarely are qualified to provide logical explanation. The confused Desi advances his or her own theories and lose respect to even well founded traditions.

In my experience, the pseudo intellectual are the ones who do not make effort to know the significance of rituals, pass quick judgement and feel a sense of advancement while preaching nonsense.

Women / daughters have participated in conducting last rites when occasion demanded. My sisters participated fully during the last rites of my parents. Beyond cremation ground they did different things and I did the rituals (without knowing much those days about the significance). My sister's role was not in anyway diminished in the eyes of anyone.

In any order, there are rules established (that can change with time). In an army as an example of ordered society there are strict rules about who makes what decisions.

While male dominated insecurity and ignorance may have contributed to many modern practices, many Hindu traditions simply provided various duties to family members based on needs of stability of the society.

When a woman had an equal but different *interdependent* role with husband, her role as a mother is always deemed most significant.
Hence sons were given the duties to perform the last rites for parents so that daughter's ability to do prescribed duties do not conflict with her role as mother to her children.

The prescribed duties are not privileges as today's egocentric interpretations may suggest demanding last rite privileges be accorded to women. There is no need to accord any privileges. Daughters have always risen to the occasion when needed in Hindu traditions.


Active member
In Ramayana, lord Ram advises not to trust a women while addressing his brother Bharata stating:

Do you keep your womenfolk pacified? Are they duly protected by you? I hope you do not repose excessive faith in them and do not confide your secrets to them.
Manu Smriti
Manu Smriti preaches more restricted rules for women considering women as a property.

Men must make their women dependent day and night, and keep under their own control those who are attached to sensory objects. Her father guards her in childhood, her husband guards her in youth, and her sons guard her in old age. A woman is not fit for independence. --Manusmriti 9.2-3

Although no scripture mandates sati, the Puranas, part of the Hindu Smriti, mention sati as highly meritorious in several instances.

In practice across all Hindu community the ladies do not even go to the Ghat, with the body. Some of the members here are protesting that Hindu women is already empowered and does not require any new roles. May be in their world, or in their mind they can sweep the inequality suffered by Hindu women.
In the religious texts, it is written that those blessed with a son need never worry about their last rites. Just by being available to be seen at the time death the son becomes free of parental debt. One whose son offers shraddha goes to heaven. The last rites by the son protect the father or mother from birth in low places.

According to DharmRaj, if one has several sons the elder one should perform the last rites. The other sons may be present, but must not perform the rites.

If there is no son, the wife/husband should perform it. If they are not available, then a real brother should do it. In their absence, the son-in-law or his son can conduct the ceremony.

May be I come from a different background.
According to the latest U.N. Gender Equality Index, India has one of the worst gender differentials in child mortality of any country, ranking 132 out of 148 nations, worse than Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In much of India, a preference for male children is built into cultural ideology. Sons are traditionally viewed as the breadwinners who will carry on the family name and perform the last rites of the parents - an important ritual in many faiths.

Girls are often seen as a burden that parents can ill afford, largely due to the hefty dowry of cash and gold jewelry that is required to marry them off.


Active member
During the period of Dharmashastras and Puranas the position of women underwent a major change. Daughters were regarded as second class citizens when freedom of women was curtailed. The discontinuance of upanayanam, neglect of education, and the lowering of age at marriage caused disastrous problems upon the position and status of women.

In the social field pre puberty marriages came to be practiced, widow remarriage was prohibited; husband was given the status of God for a woman, education was totally denied to women, custom of Sati became increasingly prevalent. Purdah system came into vogue and practice of polygyny came to be tolerated.

In the economic field, a woman was totally denied and it was said that “a wife and a slave cannot own property”. In the religious field, she was forbidden to offer sacrifices, prayers, practice penance, and undertake pilgrimages.
The medieval period (500AD to 1500 AD) was again a set back for the Status of women in India. The Muslim invasion of India changed the entire society including women.
Practice of child marriage, prohibition of widow remarriage etc were imposed again.

The practice of child marriage came into being again in the fear of Muslim invaders marriage in an early. The seduction or kidnap of young girls by the Muslims compelled the parents to arrange their daughters to marry in an early age. This kept the women away from education, and had to suffer the brunt of family life in an earlier age.

The glorification of the ideal “pathivratya” made the society prohibit widow remarriage. Child widows had a miserable life. They were denied education and public life. Prohibition of sex-life made a few of them lead immoral life and some even became prostitutes. To prevent sex offences child widows were forced to forsake all types of beautification to make them unattractive. The glorification of Pathivratya and the miserable life as a widow made many women to go for Sati. Sati refers to a practice in which the married women used to jump into the funeral pyre of their husbands with the hope of attaining “sadgathi” or “moksha”. There were instances were married women are forcibly pushed into the funeral pyre of their husbands.

There was also the horrible practice of “Jauhar” in which the Rajput women used to immolate themselves collectively with a view to protect their chastity whenever it was very much endangered.

After the Muslim invasion the Hindu women also forced to wear Purdah (veil) like Muslims women to protect themselves from the sexy look of the invaders. The purdah system led to the complete seclusion of women from education and public life.

Devadasi system is another social evil which caused the degradation of Indian women. It is a custom that denies marital opportunity to women in the name of religion insisting them to become devadasis or basavis to serve the God in the temple as dancers and singers. The devadasis and basavis compelled by circumstances to become prostitutes. This system spoiled the prospects of many young girls in the medieval period.

Traditionally the last rites of a deceased person are always performed by a male member of the family. And as multiple Bollywood movies will testify, this masculine obligation is the oldest reason to valourise the son in the traditional Hindu family, prompting a weeping filmi parent to wail, 'Who will perform my antim sanskaar (last rites)? Who will be my budhape ka sahara (support in my old age)?' In 2014, you no longer need a son to do either.

Read more at: Lighting her father's pyre: How Pankaja Munde made history | Firstpost
OP is about the Funeral rites of Hindu Women and not about Trusting Women.

Many texts from Vedas and Purans were misquoted and the Advice stated by Sri Rama to Bharata is one of them

Out of context interpretation of quotes:
Rama (addressing Bharata) said: "Do you keep your womenfolk pacified? Are they duly protected by you? I hope you do not repose excessive faith in them and do not confide your secrets to them." Valmiki Ramayana Ayodhya Kanda, 100.49

These verses have been used in context & situation where they were dealing with devious women. Bharat's mother Kekayia is the one who forced Lord Rama out of his home into jungles for 14 years. She was sowing poisen in Bharat's mind. What Rama was referring is for those sort of women.

When Lord Rama talked to Bharat about women, he is referring to the tensions that his step-mother Kakiya had caused, he did not directly refer her by name though it was meant for his step-mother when he said 'women'. We can see that Lord Rama is not being very explicit out of decency. The tensions caused by such women pushed him out of the Kingdom for 14 years, killed his father out of sadness, bought sadness within the Kingdom. Not to forget about Ravan and those seductress such as Supranaka ...These are deveious women that break family. These are the women one has to be careful about. The negative people are free to quote it out of context to say it is meant for all women and exploit the gullable audience.

This shaloka refers to Apsara kind of women or those ordinary humans trying to imitate the Apsaras:

Same is the case with many Quotes of Manusmriti .

Men must make their women dependent day and night, and keep under their own control those who are attached to sensory objects. Her father guards her in childhood, her husband guards her in youth, and her sons guard her in old age. A woman is not fit for independence. Manusmriti 9.2-3

It refers to women of traits that are attached to sensory object. Giving independence to women who has substance [alcohol, drugs...sensual] dependence is not good for her. In those time, it was women. In some countries at certain time, it is African's, Mexicans, Indians and minorities falling to substance abuse. In present time, both men and women of all race are suspect to sensory and substance dependence. It is the duty of stronger person (or corporation) to make them dependent on "something useful"/"something productive" or make them depend on them if they are "therapy provider"/business/corporation/nation. The meaning is to depend on strength and it has remained the same over time, the objects can change thought the objective has remained the same. Thus now we depend upon or lean our head on places of strength as we did in past.

The following is said in context of women who take to wrong:

They (women) make a lie appear as truth, and a truth appear as a lie. The Mahabharata Anusasana Parva, Section XXXIX

This above is referring to certain section of women who had enhanced/influenced the situation for war/distress/mistrust and the above translation does not take the complete context:

Misinterpretation of Vedas and verse quoted out of context in Hindus, Hindu Dharma and Hindutva Forum
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I am posting an explanation to amplify some points as a follow up of my post #9 in the context of Sri Prasad's messages.

I can resonate with Sri Prasad's view that women have been abused in the name of religion by people bearing the title of Hindus through centuries including even today. Before I explain my emphasis in post #9 let me discuss the reason for such abuse.

This abuse of women continues even today for the same reason it happened in past era and that is due to ignorance. Let me explain using the example of the OP subject matter itself.

In the case as to who should perform last rites a son is entrusted with that duty if a son exists in a family. The keyword here is (sacred) duty which is not a privilege. If it was a privilege legitimate questions can come as to why our tradition can choose favorites.

In practice this duty is viewed as a privilege due to ignorance of understanding the order imposed by the tradition.

A daughter often becomes the key person in the raising of her children and that becomes one of her most cherished duties. A husband and wife in union of Vedic wedding is viewed as one larger entity and the wife's duty is to support her husband and the husbands's duty is to support his wife. The husband of the daughter has his own parents and is entrusted with taking care of them including last rites and hence the daughter is associated with another home and Gotra. This does not mean she is supposed to abandon her own parents or that her husband is supposed to ignore his parents in laws.

All it means is that in the tradition the primary responsibility for conducting last rites is resolved to be done by the son if the son exists supported by his wife.

If one views this as duty with a goal to achieve a higher purpose in life there are no conflicts. But if this is viewed as privilege one can simply start arguing that the daughter is unfairly treated in this tradition. There could be ego driven issues as to who is considered more important.

The father and mother is mistakenly told that they will achieve 'greater after life' if son takes care of the last rites. They tend to abuse daughters who after all cannot be depended on and belongs to another house anyway. Therefore families in India including TB family desires boys and using latest technology they are ready to abort a female fetus.

Such is the ignorance. Then there are foolish and dangerous people the so called psedo intellectuals that legitimize putting down women by citing reference from scriptures out of context.

Men are insecure much more than women and tend to assert their ever fragile ego to no end. They want to ensure that a woman will only bear their children and no one else after their death. There are cruel practices of shaving the head of a young woman when she loses her husband.

None of these are sanctioned by any teaching except in the mind of the ignorant which is many.

Our key traditions when understood properly arise of out broad-mindedness and need for stability in a society.

When examining traditions and practices we have to resort to the original teaching which gave rise to a ritual.

If anyone reads translation of wedding mantras of a Vedic wedding the emphasis is in equality and mutual respect at all levels between bride and groom.

Our philosophical foundation asserts truth which is perfect equality of both male and female principles. There are as many temples devoted male forms as female forms. This is the glory of a tradition and way of life we call Hindusim and not found in many religions.

There are ignorant, mischievous and adharmic people who have misunderstood our teaching and commit crime against women and other human beings in the name of Hinduism.

All such people are criminals in my view.

My post # 9 is about the intent and rationale for various time tested traditions which when followed with right understanding leads to a more conflict free life.

My post #9 was not meant to condone atrocities committed by criminals using tradition as an excuse when in reality it is their ignorance that makes them do the crimes.


Well-known member
Women are not weak as mostly thought....being emotional is not the same as being weak hearted.

When it comes to love for a child and protecting family a woman can even give up her life...lets not forget that many brave queens had committed Sati voluntarily when their husbands died so do we still really want to believe that women are weaker?
Women are not weak as mostly thought....being emotional is not the same as being weak hearted.

When it comes to love for a child and protecting family a woman can even give up her life...lets not forget that many brave queens had committed Sati voluntarily when their husbands died so do we still really want to believe that women are weaker?

Not to speak of Maharanis,
I know of a woman (also related to me as - in law) who has made her son an software Engineer when her husband died in his 40s due to cancer.Her effort/ courage is highly appreciated in our family circle.
It is amply told that, in the absence of Male Children, the last rites can be done by the Daughter,Secondly, it is also said that in these days, a Daughter only takes care of her Parents, in preference to Sons.. We have to analyse as to why at all such situations increase day by day ?
In the last 20 years, there is virtually no comparison in these matters bet. men & women. All are well educated, are equally earning & even prefer to act like Sons , when it comes to help their Mothers especially. In number of cases these women live in U.S. & the visit of her Parents become equal, if not more of their In=Laws? One major reason in practice is that the daughters have domination on their husbands (or you may call it as more influence on their husbands) to ensure that no ill-will against her parents , because he is the Mappillai ?treat his In-laws as parents. While I say that these women are able to help their parents in all the ways, reverse is also TRUE , meaning that our married Sons are softer to their In-laws & his wife ( like our daughters) takes the role of entertaining In-laws to please his wife.
Let us be happy that this situation would bring unity in diversity ?

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