The state of development of a society can be judged from the status a woman occupies in it. A woman performs a number of roles in the family, community and the wider social system. Her status in the society is determined by her composite status depending upon her various positions and roles.
In Smritis, such as the Manusmriti, the opinion about the position of women is mixed and contradictory. Manusmriti asserts that a girl should obey and seek protection of her father, as a young woman - her husband and as a widow - her son. However, in other sections, the same text asserts that women must be honoured and adorned and where women are revered, there the gods rejoice; but where they are not, no sacred rite bears any fruit. Women who are mothers of a son, with their husbands still alive, are the most auspicious members of society. It is when and if their husbands die, that a woman may lose her status in society. However, scholars have questioned the authenticity of the text over time and the inconsistent versions of the Smriti that have been discovered.
Hinduism, has been known to have the strongest presence of the divine feminine among major world religions, from ancient times to the present. Ancient texts even expound a reverence for the feminine too. The Devi Sukta hymn of Rigveda, declares the feminine energy as the essence of the universe, the one who creates all matter and consciousness, the eternal and infinite, the metaphysical and empirical reality (Brahmanda), the soul (supreme self) of everything. The woman is celebrated as the most powerful and the empowering force in some Hindu Upanishads, Sashtras and Puranas, particularly the Devi Upanishad, Devi BhagavataPurana, etc.
One of India's most auspicious festivals, Durga Puja celebrates the triumph of good over the evil. It is meant to honour the 'goddess of power', Mother Goddess - MaaDurga. The festival occurs in the Hindu month of Ashwin from the first day to the tenth day of the month. The prowess of Durga is depicted with her ten hands holding different weapons and symbolizing various 'shakti' or power that human possess. Her three eyes and the ride on the lion showcase her strength further. A woman is often referred to have taken the form of Durga when she is at her best spirit to fight against the evil. The word 'Durga' refers to as the one who is indomitable and the one who has the power to fight with all the sufferings and miseries of human race.
MaaDurga, the unassailable, is one of the most impressive, beautiful, and formidable warrior goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. Her story is the victory of good over evil. As 'Mahishasurmardini' she slays the buffalo demon who threaten the stability of the cosmos. She is also the Divine Mother protecting all from evil and misery. She is not the quintessential woman. She is not submissive and takes the battle to the males. In this role reversal, she stands outside the stereotype of our society.
Just like MaaDurga, women in India are powerful, sensitive, righteous and courageous. The history of women in India has been eventful and has seen a vast change in perception over several decades. Modern India now has successful women participation in areas of education, sports, politics, media, art and culture, service sector, business, science and technology, social work, etc. Women like Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, Bachendri Pal, Shobhna Narayan, Kiran Bedi and many more have inspired thousands of girls to walk on the road less travelled and leave a trail behind for millions to follow.
Today, in a country like India where MaaDurga is worshipped and women form the backbone of the society, India is still fighting the societal demons the crimes against women like rape, sex-selective abortion, infanticide, dowry, domestic violence and child marriage. We worship our goddesses but tend to forget to respect the spirit of those deities in our girls and our women. A popular social media quote rightly goes, "A country with the highest crime rates against women will now worship a woman for the next nine days".